June 27 (UPI) — Three Chicago officers were charged for crimes involving the covering-up of evidence in the 2014 fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
Detective David March and Officers Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney were each charged with conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice.
Jason Van Dyke, the officer who shot McDonald, has since been charged with murder.
“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,” prosecutor Patricia Brown Holmes said in a statement.
March, Walsh and Gaffney are accused of lying about what happened the night of the shooting and “coordinating their activities” with each other to sustain the lie. Prosecutors also believe the detective and two officers intentionally found no witnesses or evidence in the investigation in order to protect Van Dyke.
Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times in October 2014. In November 2015, he was charged with first-degree murder.
Van Dyke has pleaded not guilty and is on unpaid administrative leave.
The McDonald shooting gained national attention after the release of a dashcam video contradicted police accounts of the shooting. Van Dyke and other officers on the scene claimed that McDonald “lunged” at them with a knife, but the video showed he was walking away when Van Dyke opened fire.
Police originally withheld the video from the public, arguing that it was “part of an active criminal investigation,” referring to the McDonald’s alleged criminal actions after he had been posthumously charged with attacking police officers.
But a journalist filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the video and a judge ruled that the Chicago Police Department had to comply with the request, resulting in the video’s public release.
Prosecutors said Van Dyke acted “without legal justification and with the intent to kill or do great bodily harm, Jason D. Van Dyke personally discharged a firearm that proximately cause the death of LaQuan McDonald,” according to court documents.