Like the rest of Chicago, the men and women running for mayor, along with other concerned citizens, were quick to offer their opinions about the six-year-nine month prison sentence given to Jason Van Dyke for the second-degree murder of Laquan McDonald.
Here are some of their statements.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle:
“Today, our justice system failed Laquan McDonald and all of our Black and Brown communities. Jason Van Dyke, the police officer who shot Laquan sixteen times to death, was sentenced to just 81 months in prison, with legal experts saying he will likely only serve three years. This sentence does not reflect the severity of the crime committed or the senseless loss of a young life.
“The sentence comes just a day after the three officers accused of conspiracy in covering up Laquan’s murder were acquitted of all charges. With so many members of our Black and Brown communities criminalized and jailed for non-violent drug offenses, Van Dyke’s sentence today shows that our lives don’t matter.
“Chicago cannot move forward when law enforcement is not held accountable. The two sentences this week show the bias, lack of equity and police code of silence in our criminal justice system.
“My heart goes out to Laquan’s family and the activists whose tireless efforts have helped to expose the injustice of our system.”
Former Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy:
“As I said after the conviction of officer Van Dyke, the justice system has spoken. Now, the judge in this controversial case has rendered his sentence. We all need to accept this decision. Hopefully, the city will now begin to heal and we can begin the difficult conversations that need to be had for that to occur. We must stop the polarization that exists in this city if we are to move forward. We must view each other as human beings, not by our skin color, race, national origin, gender, age, occupation, sexual orientation, language, religion, or political affiliation. We need to come together as a society. The diversity of America – and Chicago – should make us stronger, not pit us against each other.”
Former Police Board President Lori Lightfoot:
“I feel sad and frustrated. Judge Gaughan’s sentence of 81 months for the murder of Laquan McDonald is a supreme disappointment. While the judge gave a long oration on technical legal points, he failed to explain and justify this low sentence. Unfortunately, the lack of explanation will only fuel the perception and reality that police officers who commit crimes on duty, even murder, will not be held to the same standards as other defendants. We must continue our city’s long history of peaceful protest—protest that brought this case to light in the first place—as we continue to fight for justice.”
Former Commerce Secretary Bill Daley:
“The jury clearly found Jason Van Dyke guilty of multiple crimes. The court has an obligation to sentence him in a way that is consistent with other defendants. The appearance of a lenient sentence is a problem at a time when we desperately need to rebuild trust between people and police. We must learn from these situations and work together to repair the relationship between the police and the communities they serve.”
Community activist Amara Enyia:
“Once again, Chicago’s justice system shows a unique sympathy and bias that only seems to apply when the corruption of its law enforcement is involved.
“Jason Van Dyke murdered Laquan McDonald in cold blood and will face no more than 81 months in prison — barely a slap on the wrist for a crime that took the life of a child. Today’s sentence makes it even more difficult to make the case that our city is truly invested in repairing relations with the community when our justice system seems to exhibit a perpetual disregard for the voices and opinions of those very communities.
“We knew that there would be no winners in this case, but this sentence and yesterday’s acquittal of the officers involved in the coverup show just how far our city, and our nation, has left to go when it comes to issuing real justice to those who deserve it most. ”
State Comptroller Susana Mendoza:
“While a historic step forward was taken when a jury convicted Jason Van Dyke of the murder of Laquan McDonald, today’s lenient sentence did not fit the severity of the crime. The fact is that our prisons are populated with individuals serving longer sentences for much lesser crimes. While many are justifiably disappointed with this sentence, this has nonetheless sent a message to police officers that if they break the law, there will be consequences. As mayor, I will work tirelessly to rebuild the broken trust between police and our communities to heal our city. Today is just a start. We have a lot of work ahead of us.”
Businessman Willie Wilson:
“Three cops charged with conspiracy. They say no cover up. One convicted for murder. They say six years, which means three. I’ve bailed people out of jail who have been
there for three years for petty theft! I ask “Is that all a black life is worth?” It’s 2019. We can do better. We need to do better. We HAVE TO do better.”
Gery Chico, former president of the Chicago Public Schools board:
“The loss of a child is the worst burden a parent can ever bear. I truly hope the McDonald family can find peace one day.
“I agreed with the special prosecutor, and his sentencing recommendation seemed reasonable. Yet the judge’s sentence is far too light for this crime.
“Now, we as leaders of this city, have a responsibility to ensure we lead Chicago to be a more just and fair city to all of our citizens. It is up to us to usher in new criminal justice reforms, world class police training, community policing, and vastly expanded social services. As mayor, I will fight my heart out every single day to achieve these objectives, and I will bring an absolute commitment to implementing the U.S. Justice Department’s consent decree.”
Others also reacted to the verdict.
Former First Lady of Illinois Patti Blagojevich:
“I am speechless. A 17 year old is dead and the sentence is less than half of my husbands sentence for discussions with his staff and attorney about political fundraising.”
Black Lives Matter Chicago:
“Abolish this entire system!”
Nicole J. Johnson, 20th ward aldermanic candidate:
“This is what happens when you’re not viewed as a FULL human. The law does not fully protect you.”
Good Kids, Mad City, a student led advocacy group:
National Black Police Association National Chairperson Sonia Y.W. Pruitt:
“Our position is that the judge wanted to go back and retry the case with Officer Van Dyke. She made some comments about Laquan and his behavior and I don’t know what that had to do with whether or not those officers lied their police report. Frankly, this has been another miscarriage of justice. As an organization, we feel some bias has crept back into the criminal justice system where Laquan McDonald is concerned. His family did not get justice, and nor will they get peace with this verdict.”
Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th):
“A travesty of justice, another bleak reminder that our criminal justice system is failing us. Rest in peace and power Laquan McDonald, we will continue to fight for justice for you and all the victims of our racist policing system.”