Officers Charged with Obstruction, Conspiracy in Laquan McDonald Case

The officers engaged in a cover up to make the shooting death of the teen appear justified.


Three police officers have been charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice and official misconduct for their roles in the cover up of the 2014 fatal shooting of Black teenager Laquan McDonald by a white police officer.

“These defendants lied about what occurred during a police-involved shooting in order to prevent independent criminal investigators from learning the truth,” special prosecutor Patricia Brown Holmes said. “The indictment makes clear that it is unacceptable to obey an unofficial code of silence.”

Detective David March, a 30-year police veteran, and Officers Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney, both with the force for about 20 years, received the charges on Tuesday and will appear in court next month. Gaffney is the only one charged who is still on the force but is currently suspended without pay as a result of the pending felony charges.

Seventeen-year-old McDonald was shot and killed in October 2014 by Officer Jason Van Dyke. The officers provided false accounts of the events surrounding the shooting in order to make Van Dyke’s actions appear justified.

Van Dyke, identified as Individual A in the indictment, also provided a phony account of what happened the night he killed McDonald.

Parts of the report cited in the indictment include:

“When McDonald got to within 12 to 15 feet of the officers he swung the knife toward the officers in an aggressive manner”

“Van Dyke continued firing his weapon at McDonald as McDonald continued moving on the ground, attempting to get up, while still on the ground”

“McDonald ignored the verbal direction and instead, raised his right arm toward Officer Van Dyke, as if attacking Van Dyke”

“McDonald fell to the ground but continued to move, attempting to get back up, with the knife still in his hand”

The charges also note, “The recovered in-car camera video from Beats 845R and 813R was reviewed and found to be consistent with the accounts of all of the witnesses.”

The release of the video suggested otherwise and led to days of protests in the city of Chicago.

The video shows McDonald being shot while he was walking away from police — and continuing to be shot while already lying motionless on the ground. McDonald was shot 16 times.

The footage does not show McDonald advancing on police. Rather, Van Dyke began firing six seconds after leaving his police car and fired over a 14 to 15 second period — 13 seconds of which McDonald was already on the ground.

McDonald is seeing running, then walking in the street toward and away from several police cars. At one point, he veers away from two police officers who have their guns drawn and is standing more than 10 feet away when he appears to be hit, spins around, then falls to the ground, at which point his body continues to be hit with bullets, sending puffs of smoke into the air.

A police officer is then seen kicking an item out of McDonald’s hand, reportedly a three-inch knife that McDonald had been using to slash car tires.

“The shooting of Laquan McDonald forever changed the Chicago Police Department and I am committed to implementing policies and training to prevent an incident like this from happening again,” Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said in a statement. “Throughout this investigation, CPD has fully cooperated with prosecutors and will continue to do so. We will also continue to implement meaningful reforms that build community trust, provide greater training and resources to our dedicated officers, and make Chicago safer.”

Earlier this month civil rights groups including Black Lives Matter of Chicago filed a lawsuit against the city of Chicago, along with its police department. The lawsuit cites the city’s long, well-documented use of excessive force against minorities at the hands of the Chicago Police Department.

“Acting through the CPD, the City of Chicago promotes a culture of rampant brutality, especially against people of color,” the lawsuit states.

A lengthy report from the Department of Justice, released in January, found that Chicago police officers routinely violate the civil rights of its residents, with excessive force falling “heaviest on Black and Latino communities.”

The Justice Department found “a pattern or practice of unreasonable force” as a result of “deficiencies in CPD’s training, supervision, accountability, and other systems.” The investigation raised “serious concerns about the prevalence of racially discriminatory conduct by some CPD officers and the degree to which that conduct is tolerated and in some respects caused by deficiencies in CPD’s systems of training, supervision and accountability.”

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  • Yes, such a relief to see episodes studied to differentiate necessary violence from fear based, knee jerk responses that end up with Black men dead. Interesting to note that the change in focus came from a lawsuit, and I had just come to believe this seems to be the needed path to attention, after marches and rallies. I heard it on the news last night, and am glad – it is not vengeance against police, that’s not it. Any of us can act too quickly in fear, but if your job is to work with public and protect them, your goal must seek every option to keep everyone alive – at the minimum!

    My own work in human services involved lots time and attention to keep trying to deal with challenging people, and with each successive effort with the same ones, more communication and information are exchanged, information that fosters a different attitude. One old lady berating me, and I was exhausted, and kept saying to her, I’m here to help, but cannot just stay here while you put me down, mock and criticize me. “But don’t you understand??” She asked me. “I’d like to, but no, I don’t, and I wish you could tell me.” “I’m scared to get up and move she said. I don’t remember what’s out in the hall, don’t remember how to get go my room. Can you imagine how that feels? What can I do, I can’t change anything.”

    My whole attitude changed as I listened, forgetting the hour before where she had taunted and mocked me, her long time helper, and I was doing all I could to get her to get up from her recliner and walk to her bedroom for the night.

    We do not see each other’s worlds. No, we should not take abuse and mockery, but it’s not so easy to talk across different experiences, and every effort to pause, repeat, prevent any physical harm, and keep trying to communicate – over time – not in any one incident alone. Not seek for instant control, but work towards gradual learning of how to help.

  • This is a start, but there are more than these 3 officers involved. The entire Department conspired to cover up what happened, as demonstrated by their delaying releasing the video — that demonstrated the falsity of the officers’ accounts and showed what really happened — for many months.

  • Sorry, quick add. So many times people are shot or killed when lying on the ground.

    If they are known (for sure) to have a gun, that’s one thing – but a man with a knife cannot “advance” on police in any dangerous way, from a position on the ground – all they have to do is give him room and wait – not shoot! Likewise, someone in a car in a seat belt, running in opposite direction…. unarmed….. Training with focus on weapons, targets and enemies is wrong.

  • You know what would be a shock? An actual conviction… I’m at the point where I’ll believe it when I see it. Until then, it’s just another day in the life.

    • right. Getting an indictment is one thing, a conviction another. Then we have to deal with juries who hate to convict cops even is they are guilty. The thing is, if these cops start getting convicted for wrong doing, it will help everyone as they will become more honest, which helps everyone.

    • Charity Dell

      TRISH–My first thought after reading this article was:

      “Will the officers walk free after a trial? Is a no-conscience jury being assembled right now, to
      find these officers “innocent of all charges”? Is this another case like all the other cases,
      where “The Blue Wall”just protects its own, with the help of jurors dedicated to the proposition

  • Dishonest cops – who, besides other cops, needs ’em? Innocent until proven guilty, but if guilty they should go.

  • Milwaukee is 92 miles from Chicago and these police brutality and killings spread across state lines. KKKops are brutish beasts everywhere in the world. Their admittance requirements must include psychopathic, sociopathic, and dysfunctional personality disorders. As a former military officer, I’m not shocked at KKKop killing because most of them learn to lust for killing in the military. After they come out of the violent military atmosphere, they join police forces to satisfy their lust for killing, raping and beating vulnerable people. All this hype about 22 soldiers per day committing suicide just might be from all the guilt they have from raping and murdering innocent men, women and children in Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, including American female soldiers. Like most brute beasts in uniform, KKKops are trained to “kill, kill, kill”; this was the military mantra. They won’t be CONVICTED because they are doing what their chiefs and police academies train them to do–kill Black people. These are the low-class, uneducated, ignorant offspring [sons and daughters] of the plantation overseers.

    • @ZaziJams – Not sure what branch of service you served in, personally I served in the Navy, but I can tell you from personal experience that there are very few soldiers who have seen combat who “lust” for killing. thousands of returning military men and women are dealing with physical and mental maladies stemming from having to justifiably kill, you do them a disservice by cramming them all into a broadly stereotypical description of what military people are like. I suggest you refrain from drawing narrowly defined atypical conclusions and research what prototypical military folk are like, because you certainly have no idea right now. Just so you know, I am not naive, there are certainly some evil people who make their way into the ranks, but on the other hand, those who are from that ilk are in the minority. Think before you speak, just saying.

      • I was a Naval Aviator and currently a special assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations- and have served the last four CNOs. I’ve briefed hundreds of flag officers, one Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and one Commandant of the Marine Corps. I was commissioned with a guy who retired as a Navy Captain (O-6) SEAL. I still communicate with dozens of guys I flew with.

        Not a single one has a lust for killing.

      • I think she may be a fictitious troll, rather than a real person, but — if she is real — she is trapped in a mental prison formed by her own hateful thoughts and, as a result, hates everyone, including herself. Pay her no mind; no one else on this site — including the Moderator — does.

  • My thing is there are so many other means they have besides a gun a tazer pepper spray rubber bullets this 16 year old held a pocket knife what was the worse he could do throw it at them like come on yes they could have been stabbed if they got close but my thing is why are these officers using excessive force ok lets put aside these were victims regardless of color and put aside whether or not they commited a crime lets put aside everything but the gun being fired why is it there shooting to kill these men and weman are trained to shoot they go to the range they know how to aim so lets say they did feel threatened (which we know wasnt the case) what happened to shoting to injur not kill i thought the police wanted to get the bad guy put him in jail not shoot to kill. I just dont understand it now lets go back and address that yes the police are killing more and more well i think that more harsh punishment has to be given when these cops are covicted it needs to be harsher punishments more times then not infortunatly these cops get away with it but the ones that are convicted there not getting life wtf thats a problem u kill a person ur a cop u know right from wrong ur convicted u get life why is it were so light on sentencing for these police make them an example and the next time a cop pulls a black man latino man white man whoever over he wont be so quick to shoot to kill and all this bs about black men being bigger and stronger and all that so there a threat already well ive seen some big ass corn feed white men in my day are they a threat to be shot to they scare me and one more thing before i go most serial killers are white but black people are a threat thats why i got to say things have to change harsher punishment for cops lets give them the charges they deserve like murder excessive force hate crime pergery fraud im sure there is a lot of charges besides murder they could get. But stop the killing shoot to injur not kill and shoot as only a last resort. Its simple u have to sometimes change a system in order to redirect a future of eqaulity peace and freedom

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