Judge to Sentence Ex-Chicago Policeman for 2014 Shooting of Teen

Chicago Tribune/Pool via REUTERS

A judge is expected to sentence on Friday white former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke after a jury found him guilty of murder last year in the 2014 shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald.

Van Dyke, 40, faces up to 20 years in prison for his second-degree murder conviction and up to 30 years for each of 16 counts of aggravated battery, one count for each shot he fired at McDonald, who was carrying a knife.

The October verdict was the first time an on-duty Chicago police officer was held criminally accountable for the killing of an African-American. It touched off celebratory street demonstrations in Chicago.

The jury’s verdict followed numerous acquittals or mistrials of police officers facing criminal charges across the country in the deaths of black men.

The sentencing hearing led by Judge Vincent Gaughan of the Illinois Circuit Court of Cook County is expected to start at 9 a.m. local time.

The hearing comes a day after another judge found three of Van Dyke’s former police colleagues not guilty of conspiring to protect him after he fatally shot 17-year-old McDonald.

Days of protests erupted in the third-largest U.S. city when a dashboard camera video of the Oct. 20, 2014, shooting was released more than a year later in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

The video also prompted the dismissal of the city’s police superintendent and calls for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign. Emanuel is not running in next month’s mayoral election.

Prosecutors showed the video repeatedly during the three-week trial. Jurors said they faulted Van Dyke for escalating the conflict when he could have waited for an officer with a non-lethal Taser weapon.

Van Dyke is subject to a minimum sentence of 18 years, prosecutors said in a court document this week. The defense seeks probation, a spokeswoman said.

Police killings of mostly unarmed black men and teens elsewhere in the United States helped fuel the Black Lives Matter movement and were mentioned in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

Van Dyke testified in his own defense, saying he feared for his safety and fired because McDonald was advancing on him. Both the officer and his lawyers argued that the angle of the video did not reflect Van Dyke’s perspective.

(Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago; Editing by Caroline Stauffer and Matthew Lewis)

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