Three police officers in Chicago were acquitted on Thursday despite a video proving they lied to help cover up the cold-blooded murder of an unarmed Black teenager in 2014. Officer Thomas Gaffney, former Detective David March and ex-Officer Joseph Walsh were accused of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and official misconduct for providing accounts that were inconsistent with a damning video of the shooting of Laquan McDonald.
Still, they were found not guilty for their roles surrounding the 17-year-old’s murder.
The three men all said Jason Van Dyke, who was convicted in October for murdering McDonald, was justified in shooting the teenager 16 times within 14 seconds. Walsh, Van Dyke’s partner the night of the shooting, even said: “McDonald was walking toward Van Dyke and with his arms raised when he was shot.” The video would later contradict that account, showing Walsh lied. Still, he and his co-defendants were acquitted.
The video was released one year after McDonald’s death and showed the teen walked away. He continued to be shot when he fell to the ground.
The acquittals may have provided a hint at what type of sentence Van Dyke would receive.
According to court documents filed Monday, special prosecutor Joseph McMahon “indicated he would not take a hard-line position at sentencing,” the Chicago Tribune reported.
Van Dyke, who was found guilty of second-degree murder and 16 different counts of aggravated battery for each bullet he shot, was scheduled to be sentenced Friday.
Originally, it was believed Van Dyke would receive a minimum of 96 years. However, his 12-year-old daughter wrote a letter to the judge saying, “I have been bullied at school about what has happened. Kids come up to me and say that my dad is a murderer. That hurts so much when people say that to me. My dad is not that.” Now, he may only be sentenced to 18 years.
“McMahon gave his blessing for a sentence that could restore Van Dyke’s freedom while he’s still young enough to rebuild his life,” the Chicago Tribune explained. “While outlining a way for Van Dyke to be sentenced to as little as 18 years in prison, McMahon did not make a specific recommendation as to how many years the ex-officer should be incarcerated.”
The defense was asking for probation instead of any jail time.
A jury of eight women and four men — seven of them white, one Black, three Hispanic and one Asian — found the former officer guilty, which immediately revoked Van Dyke’s bail.
The acquittals sparked widespread condemnation across social media with many citing the unfortunate reality that justice for Black people in America is routinely deferred.