The former Chicago cop who shot and killed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014 is set to be released from prison next week after serving just half of his original sentence.
The officer, Jason Van Dyke, 43, was convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm in 2018 for shooting the Black teen 16 times and sentenced to six years and nine months in prison. Because of good behavior, however, he’s scheduled to be released on Feb. 3 after just three years. He’ll still spend at least two years on parole.
McDonald’s family is furious about the decision and called Van Dyke’s punishment a “slap on the wrist” during a press conference Thursday, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“Please don’t let this man out because he did a hideous crime,” McDonald’s grandmother Tracie Hunter said at St. Sabina Church in Chicago. “Everybody knows that he killed my grandson. I’m not going to rest or be satisfied until this man does his rightful time.”
Van Dyke’s sentence three years ago was already the subject of criticism. While prosecutors in the case originally sought at least 18 years behind bars, that sentence was still just a fraction of the 96 years he could have received for his charges. And the judge determined that six years, the minimum sentence Van Dyke could have received, sufficed.
In October 2014, two police officers encountered McDonald after they received calls about the teenager wielding a knife and breaking into and damaging cars in Chicago’s Southwest Side. Within six seconds of Van Dyke exiting the police vehicle after arriving on the scene, police dash cam footage shows the cop fired 16 shots as McDonald was walking away from the officers, several of which hit the teen while he was already on the ground. All 16 bullets hit McDonald in the chest, neck, back, arms, and legs, according to the autopsy report.
McDonald died on his way to the hospital.
During the trial, Van Dyke’s defense team attempted to argue that the officer feared for his life the night he saw McDonald, but dash cam video of the shooting strongly disproved his case
The investigation into the shooting was also clouded in controversy. Three Chicago police officers filed false police reports that said the teenager lunged toward the officer. The officers also failed to interview several eyewitnesses who were present during the shooting. Issues with their account of events only came to light after video of the shooting was released to the public a year after sparking protests in the city.
The three men were eventually found not guilty on charges accusing them of covering up the true circumstances of McDonald’s death. They were, however, eventually fired from the department in July 2019.
During another press conference held with the Rev. Jesse Jackson on Monday, the family asked that the Department of Justice begin a federal investigation into the fatal shooting and bring civil rights charges against the former officer. A federal probe to the Chicago Police Department was launched back in 2015 as a result of the shooting, but never into the actual shooting.
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