Former Chicago cop Jason Van Dyke is expected to be sentenced on Friday at 12:00 p.m. ET / 11:00 a.m. CT in a Cook County, Illinois courtroom. A jury convicted him of second-degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. This comes the day after three other officers were acquitted in an alleged cover-up of the details of this incident.
McDonald, the defense said, was armed with a knife, high on PCP, slashed a patrol vehicle’s tire, and struck a windshield during a “wild rampage” the night of October 20, 2014. Prosecutors argued, however, that the ex-officer had other options besides shooting the victim.
McDonald’s death didn’t cause much of a stir in 2014. Police determined it was justified. That changed a year later. Video showed Van Dyke opening fire 16 times as McDonald was moving away from the officer. This exacerbated an ongoing national debate over how law enforcement treats people of color. The defendant is white, his victim black. The defense downplayed the racial aspects of the case during trial.
By finding Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder, jurors determined that while Van Dyke may have feared for his life, that fear was unreasonable. Prosecutors argued during the trial trial that the officer knew a taser unit was in the area and had been notified about McDonald’s behavior. The victim wasn’t putting anyone in immediate danger, and 16 shots was overkill, they said. The defendant was also convicted of 16 counts of aggravated battery; one for each bullet.
Prosecutors asked the court to give Van Dyke a 18-to-20 year sentence in prison.
Thomas Gaffney, former Chicago police detective David March, and former officer Joseph Walsh (Van Dyke’s partner) were acquitted Thursday, at the conclusion of a bench trial for allegedly falsifying reports. Judge Domenica Stephenson determined that the evidence did not show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendants meant to tell any falsehoods.
Note: This original version of this article incorrectly stated that prosecutors asked the judge to hand down a 96 year sentence. They merely suggested that it could be possible under the law. Instead, they asked for Van Dyke to spend 18-to-20 years behind bars.
[Image via ANTONIO PEREZ/AFP/Getty Images]