CHICAGO – A Chicago prosecutor on Tuesday charged three former and current police officers with concealing the truth about the fatal shooting of a black teenager three years ago.
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David March, Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney were charged with conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice for allegedly concealing “the true facts of the events surrounding the killing of Laquan McDonald,” special prosecutor Patricia Brown Holmes told reporters.
Officer Jason Van Dyke faces murder charges for shooting 17-year-old McDonald in 2014. He is scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday.
Dash-cam video of the shooting released in November 2015 sparked uproar. It seemed to contradict officers‘ statements that McDonald, who was carrying a knife, lunged at Van Dyke.
The video appears to show McDonald walking away from police when he is shot 16 times — even after he falls to the ground.
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“This indictment alleges that these defendants lied about what occurred during a police-involved shooting in order to prevent independent criminal investigators from learning the truth,” Holmes said.
The police chief was fired in the aftermath of the dash-cam video’s release. A federal investigation of Chicago police found a pattern of excessive force, and an inspector general suggested 10 officers be fired — including two of the three charged Tuesday — for covering up facts of the shooting.
“The indictment makes clear that it is unacceptable to obey an unofficial code of silence,” Holmes said, refusing to clarify why those three particular officers were indicted out of all of those implicated by the inspector general.
“The investigation in this matter continues. We will follow all roads where they lead. We will seek the truth,” she said.
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Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson responded to the charges by vowing to prevent another tragedy like the McDonald shooting, which he said, “forever changed the Chicago Police Department.”
“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,” Johnson said in a statement.
Walsh was Van Dyke’s partner on the night of the shooting, and March was the detective assigned to investigate it, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Both resigned following the inspector general’s recommendation that they be fired, the newspaper said.
The three officers are scheduled to appear in a Chicago court for arraignment on July 10. They were not arrested prior to the hearing.