[6/29/17/ LISA KLEIN] A Cook County grand jury returned an indictment against three Chicago police officers who prosecutors say covered up facts about the officer-involved shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald.
McDonald, 17, now the poster child for the failings of the Chicago Police Department, was shot and killed by Officer Jason Van Dyke in October 2014. Van Dyke fired 16 shots at McDonald while he was walking away from his police car.
An independent journalist sued the city for the release of the police dashcam video of the incident in 2015, the release of which sparked protests, the firing of police superintendent Garry McCarthy and an eventual federal probe into the department.
In her indictment released Tuesday, Special Prosecutor Patricia Brown Holmes charged three officers with official misconduct and obstruction of justice for their roles in the police department’s investigation of the shooting.
Holmes alleges David March, Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney “lied about what occurred and mischaracterized the video recordings so that independent criminal investigators would not know the truth about the Laquan McDonald killing and the public would not see the video recordings of the events.”
“The co-conspirators created police reports in the critical early hours and days following the killing of Laquan McDonald that contained important false information in an attempt to prevent or shape any criminal investigation,” the indictment states.
March, a detective with the department, is accused of preparing a report that falsely stated McDonald assaulted Van Dyke, Walsh and Gaffney and that Van Dyke had to shoot McDonald in self-defense.
Walsh and Gaffney allegedly gave statements saying McDonald swung a knife at Van Dyke, which was proven false by the video recording.
They also claimed McDonald attempted to get up after he was first shot and fell to the ground. The officers said the video was consistent with their version of events.
“The shooting of Laquan McDonald forever changed the Chicago Police Department and I am committed to implementing policies and training to prevent an incident like this from happening again,” Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said in a statement.
Johnson added, “Throughout this investigation, CPD has fully cooperated with prosecutors and will continue to do so. We will also continue to implement meaningful reforms that build community trust, provide greater training and resources to our dedicated officers, and make Chicago safer.”
Van Dyke was charged with six counts of first-degree murder the day of the video’s release and pleaded not guilty. A judge recently denied his motion to dismiss his indictment and 16 new charges have been added.