Ex-Chicago Policeman Sentenced to almost 7 Years in Black Teen's Death

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A judge has acquitted three Chicago police officers of trying to cover up the 2014 fatal police shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald.

Following his trial in October, Van Dyke was found guilty of second-degree murder as well as 16 counts for aggravated battery, with the former officer receiving one count for every shot he fired.

Lawyers on both sides agreed that if he behaves in prison the officer could be released in less than three and a half years.

McDonald's great uncle says the sentence reduced McDonald's life to that of "a second-class citizen" and it suggests that black and white people are subject to different laws.

Before announcing her decision on Van Dyke's former colleagues on Thursday, Judge Stephenson told the court that it would be unfair to compare the three officers' reports to the dashcam video of McDonald's final moments, according to the BBC.

In his closing argument, prosecutor Joseph McMahon said between 18 and 20 years was an appropriate sentence and probation requested by the defense was not.

Attorneys for Gaffney, Walsh and March used the same strategy that the defense used at Van Dyke's trial by placing all the blame on McDonald. Among those in attendance are Van Dyke's wife, father and two school-age daughters.

According to the Chicago Tribune, which called Thursday's verdict "stunning", it is the first time in the city's history that a police officer has faced criminal charges stemming from an on-duty shooting. Van Dyke's wife and young daughters, who pleaded for leniency in letters submitted to the judge, will make statements.

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Ahead of Friday's sentencing, lawyers for Van Dyke asked for probation, the minimum punishment in IL for second-degree murder. He shot McDonald 16 times after a truck driver called 911 to report McDonald in a locked truck lot near 41st Street and Pulaski Road.

One witness, Edward Nance, who filed a complaint with the former Independent Police Review Authority and later won a $350,000 civil lawsuit, was so emotionally overwrought on the witness stand, he cried openly and didn't want to look at Van Dyke.

Beyond the video, which shows McDonald walking away from Van Dyke just before the shooting, Stephenson attacked the credibility of state witnesses.

On Friday, several black motorists testified that the officer used a racial slur and excessive force during traffic stops in the years before the shooting.

But, in the same document, prosecutors paved the way for Van Dyke to serve as few as 15 years behind bars by combining some of the counts into single acts.

Activist William Calloway said he believes the verdict will only embolden officers, and he saw members of the department laughing with one another and high-fiving outside of the courtroom after the verdict was read. "It boils down to what the defendants wrote on paper versus what is shown on video".

The case has fuelled debates about race and policing and its "code of silence", and sparked large street demonstrations after video of the incident emerged 13 months later, only because a judge demanded its release.

The case cost Van Dyke and the police superintendent their jobs and was widely seen as the reason the county's top prosecutor was voted out of office. It was also thought to be a major factor in Mayor Rahm Emmanuel's decision not to seek a third term.

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