CHICAGO — Three Chicago police officers have been indicted on felony charges alleging they conspired to cover up the fatal shooting of black teen Laquan McDonald by a white officer.
A Cook County special grand jury approved the three-count indictment Monday and the charges were filed Tuesday. Special prosecutor Patricia Brown-Holmes announced the indictments Tuesday, saying the three officers “did more than merely obey an unofficial code of silence.” She says “they lied” to prevent investigators “from learning the truth.”
The three officers, Thomas Gaffney, David March and Joseph Walsh, were all at the scene in 2014 when McDonald was gunned down by officer Jason Van Dyke in footage captured on video by a police dash-cam.
According to the indictment, the three officers conspired to back up Van Dyke’s account of the deadly shooting, stating that McDonald swung a knife and appeared ready to attack. But the court-ordered release of the video showed McDonald was walking away.
The three were each charged with conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice.
The video released in 2015 showed white officer Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times, he is accused of opening fire just moments after arriving at the scene. Van Dyke has pleaded not guilty to murder.
In relation to the indictment of the three officers, Van Dyke’s attorney released a statement saying in part, if true, the entire command staff of the police department, including the former and current superintendents, must be part of the conspiracy considering they were aware of the reports and video when they signed off on the shooting.
Van Dyke is due back in court Wednesday for a status hearing.
Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson issued the following statement:
“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. 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.”