28 June, 2017
Video released in 2015 showed white officer Jason Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times.
Detective David March and officers Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney were each charged with conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice, the special prosecutor, Patricia Brown Holmes, said in a statement.
Three Chicago police officers were indicted Tuesday on felony charges that they conspired to cover up the actions of a white police officer who shot and killed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, saying the officers lied when they alleged the teenager "aggressively" swung a knife at officers and attempted to get up from the ground still armed with the knife after he was shot. He was charged with murder in late 2015 after a Cook County judge a police dash cam recording of the shooting to be released.
Dashcam video of the shooting - released in November 2015 after a court battle - contradicted almost everything police said happened the night McDonald died. McDonald was holding a knife at the time, but the video revealed he didn't approach the officers or throw the knife at Van Dyke, though they initially claimed he had. Kevin Graham, president of the officers' union, said the union has not yet reviewed the indictment and declined to comment because it's an ongoing investigation.
"The indictment makes clear that these defendants did more than merely obey an official 'code of silence, '" said Holmes.
Gaffney, 43; March, 58; and Walsh, 48, are accused of writing incident reports that "contained important false information in an attempt to prevent or shape any criminal investigation". She says "they lied" to prevent investigators "from learning the truth". In August previous year Chicago Police Chief Eddie Johnson recommended that seven officers accused of lying about the shooting be dismissed, based on a report from the city's inspector general.
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A police audio recording has the officers shouting "get back!" and the woman saying "do it! do it!" "I could have taken her down". On the audio recording the officers are heard discussed a "safety caution" about the address stemming from the previous incident.
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The officers will be arraigned July 10.
"Investigating and charging police officers with crimes relating to their duties is a sobering responsibility", Holmes said at a news conference detailing the charges.
The indictment charged that March, the lead detective, and Walsh and Gaffney made false police reports, ignored contrary evidence and obstructed justice "to shield" Van Dyke from criminal investigation and prosecution.
Chicago police last month finalized stricter limits on when officers can use firearms and other force, the latest attempt to reform a department roiled by misconduct and criticism in the wake of McDonald's death.
The three charges each carry penalties of three to five years in prison and possible fines up to $25,000.