Chicago police officers indicted in Laquan McDonald case

A Chicago grand jury has indicted three police officers on conspiracy charges, alleging they interfered with an independent investigation into the 2014 shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

He told the inspector general that his investigation found that the actions of all the officers were "absolutely proper" and emphasized that department higher-ups' stance on the shooting shifted after the video was released. The video sparked massive protests, cost the police superintendent his job and left the city scrambling to implement reforms to regain shattered public trust.

March, 58, and Walsh, 48, were police veterans of more than 30 years and about 20 years, respectively.

Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago police officer accused of murder in the shooting of McDonald, was charged in March with 16 new counts of aggravated battery.

Holmes said they also conspired in failing to locate and interview at least three witnesses whose information was inconsistent with the accounts of officers, as well as failing to locate and preserve physical evidence.

Detective David March and patrol Officers Joseph Walsh, Van Dyke's partner that night, and Thomas Gaffney were each charged with conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice.

"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", special prosecutor Patricia Brown Holmes, appointed last summer, said in a statement.

The court papers said that their goal was "shield their fellow officer from criminal investigation and prosecution" and prevent the public from seeing what happened. March was the lead detective who ruled McDonald's shooting justified. The wire service adds that Gaffney "has been suspended because of the felony indictment, according to the department".

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Johnson did not comment specifically on the indictment.

The Fraternal Order of Police's Chicago President Kevin Graham declined comment, saying the union hasn't reviewed the indictment and doesn't comment on ongoing investigations.

"This is the same thing that our investigation showed back when we were negotiating with the city in 2015, that there was a cover up", he said.

Van Dyke is awaiting trial and has pleaded not guilty.

April 12: A task force established by Emanuel to look into police practices in the wake of the McDonald shooting says the department must acknowledge its racist past and overhaul its handling of excessive force allegations. He has pleaded not guilty.

The three charges each carry penalties of three to five years in prison and possible fines up to $25,000.

"Investigating and charging police officers with crimes relating to their duties is a sobering responsibility", Holmes said at a news conference detailing the charges.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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