Three Chicago police officers have been indicted on felony charges over conspiracy to cover up the actions of a white officer who fatally shot and killed African-American Laquan McDonald.
Officer Jason Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times in October of 2014, killing him instantly. A graphic video of the shooting was kept secret for a year before it was released, sparking widespread protests and revealing an entrenched “code of silence” among officers who had lied about the incident.
The three officers had said the 17-year-old teenager “aggressively” swung a knife at them and that he tried to get up while “still armed with the knife” after he was shot.
However, the indictment issued Tuesday says David March, Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney lied about the shooting events and that their narratives contradict what can be seen on police dashcam video.
The video shows that the teenager spins after being shot and falls to the ground — seemingly incapacitated, but the officer continues to shoot at him.
The officers also lied when they said McDonald ignored Van Dyke’s verbal commands, according to the indictment in which the three are charged with felony counts of obstruction of justice, official misconduct and conspiracy.
One of the officers also signed off on a report claiming that the other two officers were victims of an attack by McDonald.
“The co-conspirators created police reports in the critical early hours and days following the killing of Laquan McDonald that contained important false information,” says the indictment.
Patricia Brown Holmes, appointed special prosecutor last July to investigate the officers involved in the investigation of the shooting, said the three “coordinated their activities to protect each other and other members of the Chicago Police Department.”
The officers allegedly began to conspire almost immediately on the day of the shooting, “to conceal the true facts of the events surrounding the killing of Laquan McDonald” and “to shield their fellow officer from criminal investigation and prosecution.”
They understood that if video and other evidence became public, “it would inexorably lead to a thorough criminal investigation by an independent body and likely criminal charges,” according to the indictment.
Van Dyke, 37, was charged with first-degree murder on November 24, 2015, the same day the video was released.
The case marked the first time a Chicago police officer has been charged with first-degree murder for an on-duty killing in almost 36 years.
Fatal shootings and other forms of violence by US police against people of color have sparked protests across the US in recent years.
By Africafrique and agencies