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Black teen's family laments sentence given to white officer

Ex-cop sentenced in Laquan McDonald death
Ex-Chicago officer sentenced in shooting death of Laquan McDonald 00:55

Explosive video of a white Chicago officer shooting a black teenager 16 times in 2014 shocked consciences around the world. Graphic images of Laquan McDonald crumpling to the street while bullets kept striking him stirred expectations that the officer might be convicted in the killing and pay a heavy price in prison time. 

But on Friday, a sentence of less than seven years for Jason Van Dyke -- and the possibility that he may serve only half of that -- led McDonald's family and at least one activist to question whether justice had been done and the right message sent to other officers. 

McDonald's family lamented that the penalty was too light. His great uncle, the Rev. Marvin Hunter, said the sentence reduced McDonald's life to that of "a second-class citizen" and "suggests to us that there are no laws on the books for a black man that a white man is bound to honor." 

William Calloway, who was instrumental in the legal battle that led to the release of the dashcam video in 2015, described the penalty as "a slap in the face to us and a slap on the wrist" for Van Dyke, who was convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery -- one for each bullet fired at the 17-year-old McDonald.  

Chicago Police Laquan McDonald
The Rev. Marvin Hunter, Laquan McDonald's great-uncle, speaks with reporters at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. Teresa Crawford/AP

His sentencing came a day after a different judge acquitted three officers accused of lying about the shooting to protect Van Dyke, who was probably the first Chicago officer ever found guilty in the shooting of an African-American. 

The sentence was less than half of the penalty that had been sought by prosecutors, who asked for 18 to 20 years. But it went far beyond the request of defense attorneys, who argued that Van Dyke could be released on probation. The prison term also was a fraction of what Van Dyke could have faced had he been convicted of first-degree murder, which carried a mandatory minimum of 45 years in prison.   

The lead defense attorney, Dan Herbert, said Van Dyke "truly felt great" after learning his sentence. "He was happy about the prospect of life ahead of him" and someday being reunited with his wife and two daughters. 

In a brief statement, Van Dyke acknowledged the teen'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."   

On Friday, Judge Vincent Gaughan called the case a "tragedy for both sides."    

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