Multiple felony indictments have come down against one current and two former Chicago police officers. A special prosecutor says they went beyond the “code of silence” and conspired to obstruct justice after the police shooting death of Laquan McDonald.
Chicago Police detective David March and patrol officers Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney each face felony charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and official misconduct, after being indicted by a grand jury Tuesday, the state-appointed special prosecutor in the case, Patricia Brown Holmes, has announced.
Holmes would not rule out the possibility of more indictments or further charges in the future during a Tuesday press conference. She said the grand jury’s investigation was not yet complete.
The indictments stem from the initial investigation into the October 2014 killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times by police officer Jason Van Dyke after walking away from police who ordered him to put down a knife. Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder in November 2015 immediately after a Cook County judge ordered the release of police dashcam footage of the shooting, which then went viral.
Walsh, 48, who was Van Dyke’s partner that night, Gaffney, 43, and March, 58, were all at the scene of the shooting, Holmes told reporters.
“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,” she said, according to the Chicago Tribune.
An arraignment hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse has been set for July 10 for Walsh, Gaffney and March. Meanwhile, Van Dyke’s trial has yet to be scheduled.
The indictment alleges that three officers filed false police reports, left out key evidence and “mischaracterized the video recordings so that independent criminal investigators would not learn the truth about the killing and the public would not see the video recordings,” among other actions that the officers themselves knew to be illegal, in order “to shield” Van Dyke.
Holmes told reporters that the officers “failed to complete investigation in a manner that would reveal the truth.”
March and Walsh resigned from the Chicago Police Department in August 2016 following the release of the city inspector general’s report that found March lied to the county medical examiner’s office when he said McDonald lunged at Van Dyke. Walsh had backed up his claims. March had spent 30 years on the force, while Walsh had spent 20. Gaffney, also a 20-year veteran, remains on the force.
The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7, which collectively bargains for rank-and-file Chicago officers, said that they “have not reviewed the indictment and, as general practice, we do not comment on ongoing investigations,” the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Each of the counts against each officer carries a sentence of three-to-five years in prison and fines of up to $25,000, Holmes said.