On October 20, 2014, 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was fatally shot by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke from approximately ten feet away.
According to reports, he was carrying a knife and breaking into vehicles in a trucking yard at 41st Street and Kildare Avenue. Police claim when officers confronted McDonald, he used a knife with a 3-inch blade to slice the tire on a patrol vehicle and damage its windshield.
But video of the shooting shows that McDonald was walking away from Van Dyke when the first shot was fired at him. As he lay on the ground, Van Dyke fired 16 shots in 14 seconds.
Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder, but it emerged that Van Dyke’s three colleagues tried to cover-up the murder he committed. Investigators have now announced that there are enough grounds to indict those officers who tried to cover-up the appalling incident.
In a 12-page indictment filed in court, detective David March and patrol officers Thomas Gaffney and Joseph Walsh were each charged with conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice.
Van Dyke pleaded not guilty to the charges saying he feared for his life. Since March,Gaffney , and Walsh backed Van Dyke, the case was quickly signed as a justifiable homicide.
According to the indictment, March,Gaffney , and Walsh each made false police reports, ignored contrary evidence, and obstructed justice “to shield” Van Dyke from criminal investigation and prosecution.
The indictment revealed the three officers coordinated their efforts with Van Dyke “and others known and unknown to the special grand jury,” writing virtually identical reports to make it appear that McDonald’s actions were justified.
Among the false claims cited by the officers were that McDonald injured Van Dyke; that McDonald swung his knife around and raised his arm as if to attack; and that McDonald attempted to get back up off the ground as Van Dyke continued to fire.
Prosecutors said the most serious charge is obstruction of justice, and it carries maximum sentence of five years in prison. The three officers are scheduled to be arraigned on July 10 at the Leighton Criminal Court Building.
According to observers, the Chicago Police Department is notorious for operating under a code of silence. The code of silence means if an officer commits wrong against any member of the public and fellow officers are aware that their colleague acted wrongfully, they either have to keep silent or support their wrongful officer. This is exactly what the three officers did.
Those who have experienced the bitterness of the department’s code of silence praised the indictment. They said it would allow good and honest officers to expose their bad colleagues.
“This does really send a message that you could be charged just for sitting back even if you aren’t the primary actor. That gives good officers the excuse to come forward and say I am not going to risk my family, risk my job”, said Christopher Smith, an attorney representing two former officers who alleged they were ostracized for trying to blow the whistle on the code of silence.