White cop who shot black teen gets nearly 7 years in prison

CHICAGO (AP) — The white Chicago police officer who gunned down a black teenager in 2014 was sentenced Friday to nearly seven years in prison, bringing an end to a historic case that centered on a shocking dashcam video and fueled the national debate over race and law enforcement.

Jason Van Dyke was convicted last year of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery — one for each bullet he fired.

Moments before learning the sentence, Van Dyke acknowledged the black teenager's death, telling the judge that "as a God-fearing man and father, I will have to live with this the rest of my life."

Earlier, several black motorists testified that he used a racial slur and excessive force during traffic stops in the years before the 2014 shooting.

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Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke's murder trial
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Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke's murder trial
Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke takes the stand in his murder trial for the shooting death of Laquan McDonald at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., October 2, 2018. Antonio Perez/Pool via Reuters
Rev. Jesse Jackson (L), and Laquan McDonald's mother Tina Hunter listen in during the trial of Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke for the shooting death of Laquan McDonald at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., September 20, 2018. Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/Pool via REUTERS
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 24: (EDITORS NOTE: Image contains graphic content.) Evidence including photographs of the wounds to Laquan McDonald is shown to the jury in the murder trial of Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke at the Leighton Criminal Court Building September 24, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke, who is white, is charged with shooting and killing black 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was walking away from police down a street holding a knife four years ago. (Photo by Antonio Perez-Pool/Getty Images)
An enlarged diagram of bullet entry and exit wounds found on the body of Laquan McDonald is shown to the jury during the trial of Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke (2nd L), at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., September 19, 2018. John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune/Pool via REUTERS
Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke listens in during the trial for the shooting death of Laquan McDonald at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., September 18, 2018. Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/Pool via REUTERS
Jason Van Dyke's 9mm semiautomatic Smith and Wesson used in the killing of Laquan Mcdonald is introduced at the trial for the shooting death of McDonald at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., September 18, 2018. Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/Pool via REUTERS
Rev. Jesse Jackson attends the trial for the shooting death of Laquan McDonald by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., September 19, 2018. John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune/Pool via REUTERS
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 24: Pathologist Dr. Shaku Teas testifies for the defense in the murder trial of Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke at the Leighton Criminal Court Building September 24, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke is charged with shooting and killing black 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was walking away from police down a street holding a knife four years ago. (Photo by Antonio Perez-Pool/Getty Images)
Next to an image of Laquan McDonald body lying in the street, Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke listens in during the trial for the shooting death of Laquan McDonald at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., September 18, 2018. Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/Pool via REUTERS
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: A small group of activists gather outside of the Leighton Criminal Courts Building to remember Laquan McDonald on what would have been his 21st birthday on September 25, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. McDonald, who was 17 at the time of his death, died after being shot 16 times by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke who is currently standing trial at the courthouse for his death. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 24: Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke listens during the presentation of his defense on murder charges at the Leighton Criminal Court Building September 24, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke is charged with shooting and killing black 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was walking away from police down a street holding a knife four years ago. (Photo by Antonio Perez-Pool/Getty Images)
Protesters stand outside of the Leighton Criminal Court Building remembering Laquan McDonald on what would have been his 21st birthday on Tuesday, September 25, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. - Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke faces murder charges for shooting 17-year-old McDonald 16 times in an October 2014 confrontation. The incident, captured on police dash-cam video, has upended the city's politics with fears of violence if the officer is acquitted. (Photo by Joshua Lott / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSHUA LOTT/AFP/Getty Images)
Chicago police Officer Leticia Velez testifies during the trial for the shooting death of Laquan McDonald by Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke, at the Leighton Criminal Court Building Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018, in Chicago. She testified she rushed to the area on the Southwest Side on Oct. 20, 2014, after hearing officers were 'in distress.' (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
A priest sits next to Tiffany Van Dyke, wife of Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke, during his trial for the shooting death of Laquan McDonald, at the Leighton Criminal Court Building Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018, in Chicago. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke sits next to defense attorney Tammy Wendt during his trial for the shooting death of Laquan McDonald, at the Leighton Criminal Court Building Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018, in Chicago. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: Lead defense attorney Daniel Herbert gestures at an animated video during the trial of Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke at the Leighton Criminal Court Building September 25, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke, who is white, is charged with shooting and killing black 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was walking away from police down a street holding a knife four years ago. (Photo by Antonio Perez-Pool/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: An animated video portraying Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke and Laquan McDonald is shown during the murder trial of Van Dyke at the Leighton Criminal Court Building September 25, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke, who is white, is charged with shooting and killing black 17-year-old McDonald, who was walking away from police down a street holding a knife four years ago. (Photo by Antonio Perez-Pool/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 24: Defense attorney Tammy Wendt and lead defense attorney Daniel Herbert listen during the murder trial of Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke at the Leighton Criminal Court Building September 24, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke is charged with shooting and killing black 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was walking away from police down a street holding a knife four years ago. (Photo by Antonio Perez-Pool/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 24: Evidence including chest X-rays of Laquan McDonald are shown to the jury in the murder trial of Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke at the Leighton Criminal Court Building September 24, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke, who is white, is charged with shooting and killing black 17-year-old McDonald, who was walking away from police down a street holding a knife four years ago. (Photo by Antonio Perez-Pool/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 24: Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke listens during the presentation of his defense on murder charges at the Leighton Criminal Court Building September 24, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke is charged with shooting and killing black 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was walking away from police down a street holding a knife four years ago. (Photo by Antonio Perez-Pool/Getty Images)
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One of those witnesses, Vidale Joy, said Van Dyke used a racial slur after pulling him over in 2005 and at one point put a gun to Joy's head. He said Van Dyke "looked infuriated" and seemed "out of his mind." Under cross examination, Joy acknowledged that he did not allege Van Dyke used a slur in his first accounts of the stop.

Another witness, Ed Nance, struggled to maintain his composure as he looked across the room to identify Van Dyke. Testifying about a 2007 traffic stop, he said the officer cursed and slammed him on the car's hood, grabbed him by the arms and pulled him to the squad car.

Hours later, Van Dyke's relatives tried to defend and humanize him, saying he's a good father and husband who goes out of his way to help and who is not racist.

The issue of race has loomed over the case for more than four years, although it was rarely raised at trial. One of the only instances was during opening statements, when special prosecutor Joseph McMahon told jurors that Van Dyke saw "a black boy walking down the street" who had "the audacity to ignore the police."

Friday's testimony came a day after a different judge acquitted three officers accused of trying to conceal what happened to protect Van Dyke, who was the first Chicago officer found guilty in an on-duty shooting in a half century and probably the first ever in the shooting of an African-American.

At the sentencing, McDonald's uncle read a letter written from the slain teen's perspective, telling the court that Van Dyke killed him without provocation.

"I am a 17-year-old boy, and I am a victim of murder," Marvin Hunter said. "I am unable to speak in my own voice" because an officer "thought he would become judge, jury and executioner."

In asking for a long sentence, Hunter added: "Why should this person who ended my life forever ... who has never asked for forgiveness ... be free when I am dead for forever?"

17 PHOTOS
Laquan McDonald shooting
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Laquan McDonald shooting
Laquan McDonald (R) walks on a road before he was shot 16 times by police officer Jason Van Dyke in Chicago, in this still image taken from a police vehicle dash camera video shot on October 20, 2014, and released by Chicago Police on November 24, 2015. Van Dyke, a white Chicago policeman was charged on Tuesday with murdering black teenager McDonald, a prosecution that was speeded up in hopes of staving off a fresh burst of the turmoil over race and police use of deadly force that has shaken the U.S. for more than a year. REUTERS/Chicago Police Department/Handout via Reuters TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY. AN UNPROCESSED VERSION WILL BE PROVIDED SEPARATELY.
CHICAGO, IL - UNDATED: In this handout provided by the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke poses for a mugshot photo after he was was arrested for the shooting death of an African-American teen in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke has been charged with first degree murder for shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times on October 20, 2014 after responding to a call of a knife wielding man who had threatened the complainant and was attempting to break into vehicles in a trucking yard. (Photo by Cook County State's Attorney's Office via Getty Images)
A memorial to 17-year-old Laquan McDonald and other victims of violence at the Sullivan House Alternative High School in Chicago is seen on April 17, 2015. McDonald was shot 16 times by Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke in October 2014. A judge has ordered the video of the shooting to be made public. (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke arrives at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, to possibly face charges for the killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Dan Herbert, lawyer for Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke, speaks to the press following a bond hearing for Van Dyke at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke has been charged with first degree murder for shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times on October 20, 2014 after responding to a call of a knife wielding man who had threatened the complainant and was attempting to break into vehicles in a trucking yard. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Dan Herbert, lawyer for Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke, speaks to the press following a bond hearing for Van Dyke at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke has been charged with first degree murder for shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times on October 20, 2014 after responding to a call of a knife wielding man who had threatened the complainant and was attempting to break into vehicles in a trucking yard. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez leaves after speaking to the media about Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke following a bond hearing for Van Dyke at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke has been charged with first degree murder for shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times on October 20, 2014 after responding to a call of a knife wielding man who had threatened the complainant and was attempting to break into vehicles in a trucking yard. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke sits in the courtroom during a hearing in his shooting case of Laquan McDonald at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago, Illinois March 23, 2016. REUTERS/Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune/Pool File Photo
A wreath with the words "Rest In Peace Laquan McDonald" stands at the site where the 17-year-old McDonald was shot 16 times and killed by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke in an October 2014 incident on the west side of Chicago, Illinois November 24, 2015. Van Dyke has been charged with first-degree murder and is being held without bond until he is due back in court on November 30. REUTERS/Frank Polich
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 20: In this still image taken from a police vehicle dash camera relased by the Chicago Police Department on November 24, 2015 , Laquan McDonald falls to the ground after being shot by Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke on October 20, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. Officer Van Dyke was charged with first degree murder for the October 20, 2014 shooting in which McDonald was hit with 16 bullets. (Photo by Chicago Police Department via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Demonstrators march through downtown following the release of a video showing Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting and killing Laquan McDonald on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke was charged today with first degree murder for the October 20, 2014 shooting in which McDonald was hit with 16 bullets. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 07: Demonstrators protest the shooting death of Laquan McDonald by a Chicago police officer outside the mayor's office in City Hall on December7, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke shot and killed 17-year-old McDonald on October 20, 2014, hitting him with 16 bullets. Van Dyke was charged with murder more than a year after the shooting following a judge's orders to release to the public a police video of the shooting. Today, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the Justice Department will open an investigation into the Chicago Police Department. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 18 : Chicago police officers surround a police vehicle as they watch demonstrators protesting the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald December 18, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, who was charged with murder last month in the shooting death of 17-year-old McDonald last year, was indicted on six counts of first-degree murder and one count of official misconduct earlier this week. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 31: Demonstrators calling the resignation of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel stage a 'die-in' inside of City Hall on December 31, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The shooting deaths by police of a 19-year-old college student Quintonio LeGrier and his 55-year-old neighbor Bettie Jones and a recently released video showing the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke have sparked dozens of protests in the city. Yesterday Emanuel announced several changes that would take place in the police department with the hope of preventing future incidents. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
during protests in Chicago, Illinois November 24, 2015 reacting to the release of a police video of the 2014 shooting of a black teenager, Laquan McDonald, by a white policeman, Jason Van Dyke. Van Dyke was charged with murder in the incident. REUTERS/Jim Young
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF DEATH OR INJURY Laquan McDonald walks on a road (top L -R) and is subsequently shot (bottom R) by police officer Jason Van Dyke (not pictured) in Chicago, in this combination of still images taken from a police vehicle dash camera video shot on October 20, 2014, and released by Chicago Police on November 24, 2015. Van Dyke, a white Chicago policeman was charged on Tuesday with murdering black teenager McDonald, a prosecution that was speeded up in hopes of staving off a fresh burst of the turmoil over race and police use of deadly force that has shaken the U.S. for more than a year. REUTERS/Chicago Police Department/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY. AN UNPROCESSED VERSION WILL BE PROVIDED SEPARATELY. TEMPLATE OUT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A protester demonstrates in response to the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald in Chicago, Illinois, November 25, 2015. Laquan McDonald, 17, was fatally shot by Jason Van Dyke, a Chicago police officer, in October 2014. REUTERS/Andrew Nelles
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Van Dyke's wife said her life has been "a nightmare" since her husband was charged. She said she was denied a job and her daughter was not accepted into a dance group because of their last name.

If Van Dyke goes to prison, she said, her biggest fear is that "somebody will kill my husband for something he did as a police officer, something he was trained to do."

She looked up over her shoulder and addressed the judge directly: "His life is over. Please, please. He has paid the price already ... I beg for the least amount of time."

During her testimony, Van Dyke wiped his nose and eyes with a tissue while seated at the defense table in a yellow jail jumpsuit.

One of his daughters blamed the media for shaming police officers "for doing their jobs."

Kaylee Van Dyke, also 17, said the media "twists events, making people create negative thoughts." She said police officers don't care about people's color, "they care about your safety." She also said she regrets all the times she didn't hug her father.

Keith Thompson described his brother-in-law as a "gentle giant" and not a "monster." Thompson, who is black and whose wife is the sister of Van Dyke's wife, said he has never seen anything to indicate that Van Dyke is racist in the 13 years they've been acquainted.

Van Dyke's sister, Heidi Kauffunger, told the court that her brother has been abandoned by family and friends since he was charged. She begged the court for mercy and said if her brother goes to prison the family "will lose everything." She says Van Dyke's two daughters have been bullied and that the older one even had the words "16 shots" written on her school desk.

Because Illinois judges are typically required to sentence defendants for the most serious crime of which they are convicted, attorneys made arguments about the severity of the offenses, as governed by the state's complex guidelines. Judge Vincent Gaughan's decision on that point will help determine the sentence.

The defense wants Van Dyke, 40, to be sentenced primarily for the second-degree murder charge, partly because it carries a shorter mandatory minimum prison term of four years. Prosecutors want the judge to focus on the 16 aggravated battery counts because each one carries a mandatory minimum prison term of six years, and sentences for each count may have to be served consecutively instead of at the same time.

On Thursday, Cook County Judge Domenica Stephenson cleared former officer Joseph Walsh, former detective David March and officer Thomas Gaffney on charges of obstruction of justice, official misconduct and conspiracy.

Stephenson accepted the argument that jurors in the Van Dyke case rejected: that the video that sparked protests and a federal investigation of the police force was just one perspective of the events that unfolded on the South Side.

The judge said the video showed only one viewpoint of the confrontation between Van Dyke and the teen armed with a small knife. She found no indication the officers tried to hide evidence or made little effort to talk to witnesses.

"The evidence shows just the opposite," she said. She singled out how they preserved the graphic video at the heart of the case.

The judge in her ruling rejected prosecution arguments that the video demonstrated officers were lying when they described McDonald as moving even after he was shot.

"An officer could have reasonably believed an attack was imminent," she said. "It was borne out in the video that McDonald continued to move after he fell to the ground" and refused to relinquish a knife.

The video appeared to show the teen collapsing in a heap after the first few shots and moving in large part because bullets kept striking his body for 10 more seconds.

The footage showed Van Dyke opening fire within seconds of getting out of his police SUV and continuing to shoot the teen while he was lying on the street. Police were responding to a report of a male who was breaking into trucks and stealing radios on the city's South Side.

City Hall released the video to the public in November 2015 — 13 months after the shooting — and acted only because a judge ordered it to do so. The charges against Van Dyke were not announced until the day of the video's release.

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For more stories about this case, visit AP's Laquan McDonald hub .

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