Letters of support and expressions of pain from Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke’s family members were included in a court document filed Monday in Cook County Circuit Court.
“The day of his verdict not only was my heart ripped out of my chest, but he wouldn’t be there for my seventeenth birthday which made me fall into a depression,” his daughter wrote. “I want you to get to know the real Jason Van Dyke. I know who he really is and not what the public has portrayed him to be as well as the media or any news source.”
She goes on to explain the last time she hugged or kissed her father was in October.
“Now I touch his hand through a piece of dirty glass and speak through a phone where the connection breaks in and out [of]… I have no appetite, I do not sleep at night due to nightmares and crying because I wonder if my dad has pillows or blankets or has eaten before going to bed.”
“Bring my dad home,” she wrote.
Van Dyke’s wife, Tiffany, also wrote a letter of support.
“My family has suffered more than I can even put into words,” she wrote. “My daughters had their father ripped away from them to possibly ever be able to hold each other again. My children do not sleep or eat right. They feel guilty when they are bullied at school and he cannot come to their rescue.”
She said her husband was convicted in the “court of public opinion” long before the trial.
“Please find it in your heart to consider the punishment already endured by him that will continue for the rest of his life,” she wrote. “There was no malice, ill intent, or hatred on that fateful night when my husband was faced with the split second decision. He believed he was making the right choice that night.”
Another of his children wrote of being bullied regularly at school.
“Kids come up to me and say that my dad is a murderer,” the child wrote. “That hurts so much when people say that to me. I have had nightmares and trouble sleeping because my dad might have to go away for a long time. I can’t concentrate at school because of what is happening to him. My dad loves me and my sister and mom and is a kind person. I love my dad more than words can say.”
The child wrote that Van Dyke stopped going out in public after the shooting as much with his family. If he did, according to the letter, he would change “how he looks so that no one can recognize him so that we do not get hurt because people do not like what he did.”
“I need my dad in my life,” the child wrote.
Several Chicago police officers also wrote letters requesting leniency in Van Dyke’s sentencing.
According to a recent filing in Cook County Circuit Court, prosecutors seek a 6-year sentence for each of the 16 counts of aggravated battery Van Dyke was convicted of in October. That marks a total of 96 years.
"Each and every shot caused bleeding, and, each and every shot contributed to Laquan's death which resulted from multiple gunshot wounds," the filing states.
Van Dyke's defense, however, has asked that the former police officer be sentenced to probation if sentenced for second-degree murder and the "minimum statutory term of imprisonment required" for aggravated battery.
"Jason's background, history, and character support these requests," the filing reads. "Jason is presently 40 years old and married with two daughters. He has no criminal record of any kind and he has a good educational, professional and employment background."
The defense argues the sentence should be considered "one act, one crime."
Van Dyke is set to be sentenced by Judge Vincent Gaughan Friday following a years-long saga in the case.
The long-awaited verdict came almost exactly four years after Van Dyke shot 17-year-old McDonald 16 times on the city's Southwest Side.
Dashcam video showing the shooting shook the city and the nation, sparking massive protests and calls for justice.
Van Dyke's attorneys have maintained the Chicago officer was wrongly charged, saying he was acting within the law when he shot the teen, who at the time was an armed felon fleeing a crime scene.
They have vowed to continue fighting the decision.