Three current and former Chicago police officers were indicted on state felony charges for allegedly engaging in a conspiracy to stymie an investigation into the police-involved shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
After the teen was shot multiple times by another officer as he walked away, the officers conspired to cover up what really happened by falsely painting McDonald as the aggressor, the indictment alleges.
The news of the charges was announced by Patricia Brown Holmes, who was appointed as special prosecutor in the case. Charged were Detective David March and Patrol Officers Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney, a press release announcing the charges said.
“The indictment makes clear that these defendants did more than merely obey an unofficial ‘code of silence,’ rather it alleges that they lied about what occurred to prevent independent criminal investigators from learning the truth,” Holmes said. You can read the indictment in full below.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. McDonald Was Shot 16 Times As He Walked Away by Another Officer
The officers indicted in the McDonald shooting death did not shoot McDonald. Rather, they are accused of covering up for the officer who did. Police previously released video showing Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in October 2014.
The video, which you can watch above, was recorded on a police vehicle’s dashboard camera and does not have audio. At about the five-minute mark of the video, the officer arrives at the scene. McDonald can be seen running down the street.
McDonald was armed with a knife and was suspected in an armed robbery. He was shot 16 times in about 30 seconds, from about 12 to 15 feet away. Van Dyke was the only officer at the scene to fire, and he did so just seconds after exiting his SUV along with his partner, who did not shoot McDonald. McDonald was shot “as he walked away from police while holding a knife,” reported The Chicago Tribune.
Several of the shots were fired while McDonald was on the ground. Van Dyke’s partner then approaches McDonald and kicks away the knife. No medical aid was provided to McDonald by the officers.
The shooting was originally deemed justified based on the officers’ accounts, until the video footage was released, contradicting those accounts, reported NBC News. The city had resisted releasing the video for a year, according to NBC. After the video was released, public outcry ensued, and murder charges were filed against Van Dyke.
2. The Indictment Accuses the Three Officers of Lying in Police Reports to Cover Up What Really Happened to McDonald
The indictment accuses the three officers of engaging in a conspiracy whose goal was “to conceal the true facts of the events surrounding the killing of Laquan McDonald” by Officer Van Dyke.
The officers acted “in order to shield their fellow officer from criminal investigation and prosecution,” the indictment alleges.
“In order to accomplish this goal, the co-conspirators 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 event,” alleges the indictment.
The officers are accused of creating police reports containing false information in the early hours and days after McDonald’s death.
They are accused of “furnishing false information, making false reports, failing to report or correct false information, ignoring contrary information or evidence, obstructing justice, intentionally or recklessly failing to perform a mandatory duty as required by law, and knowingly performing acts which each knows he or she is forbidden by law to perform.”
3. The Officers Tried to Falsely Paint the Police as ‘Victims’ of McDonald, the Indictment Alleges
March had submitted a case incident report with false information, alleges the indictment, including that “McDonald committed aggravated assaults against the three officers, finally forcing (Van Dyke), in defense of his life to shoot and kill McDonald.”
A police report said falsely that Van Dyke, Walsh and Gaffney were victims, alleges the indictment.
A report prepared and submitted by March allegedly contained statements attributed to Van Dyke that McDonald “swung knife at POV in aggressive manner” and that “VD continued firing as O… attempting get up, still armed w/ knife.”
March is also accused of preparing and submitting a report that said McDonald ignored “raised r arm toward vd as if attacking vd.”
Another report prepared and submitted by David March allegedly said that McDonald was “attempting to get back up, knife still in hand.”
“Van Dyke continued firing his weapon at McDonald as McDonald continued moving on the ground, attempting to get up, while still armed with the knife,” the report said, according to the indictment.
Walsh, Gaffney and Van Dyke “prepared and submitted virtually identical” Chicago police reports “which contained critical information which they knew to be false,” contends the indictment.
For example, an officer’s battery report said “no. of officers battered 3” and “stabbed/cut (including actual attempt),” the indictment says.
Walsh was also accused of preparing and submitting a false report that said “assailant: assault imminent threat of battery” and “assailant: battery attack with weapon” and “assailant: deadly force uses force likely to cause death or great bodily harm.” Gaffney also prepared and submitted a similar report, the indictment alleges.
March, Gaffney and March are also accused of failing to locate and interview witnesses to McDonald’s shooting who would provide information inconsistent with the accounts of the Chicago police officers.
They also failed to locate and preserve physical evidence, the indictment contends.
4. The Officers Were All Veteran Chicago Police Officers
March is 58 and has been on the Chicago police force for more than 30 years. Walsh is 48 and Gaffney is 43, and both of them have about 20 years on the Chicago Police Department.
An arraignment was scheduled for 9 a.m. on July 10.
Walsh was Van Dyke’s partner when Van Dyke shot McDonald, according to The Chicago Tribune.
March is no longer on the Chicago police force. He “left the department after a damning report by the city inspector general faulted him for, among other things, falsely telling the Cook County medical examiner’s office that McDonald lunged at Van Dyke,” reported The Tribune.
5. Chicago Settled a Lawsuit With McDonald’s Family for $5 Million
After the video was released in the McDonald death, contradicting the official story, the ramifications continued to unfold. The City of Chicago eventually settled a claim lodged by McDonald’s family for $5 million.
The city had been fighting the release of the video, but a Cook County judge eventually ordered its release.
According to the Chicago Tribune, McDonald was a ward of the state and in temporary custody of his uncle at the time of his death. His mother was petitioning to regain custody of McDonald and had been allowed supervised visits.
The Tribune reported that McDonald had an “extensive juvenile record,” but had a job he found through a church. He enrolled at the Sullivan House High School, an alternative school for troubled youth, and a mentor would have testified he was getting good grades.
You can read more about McDonald here: