The police officers who covered up the facts surrounding the shooting death of Laquan McDonald are the victims in the situation, according to the Fraternal Order of Police, which called the officers “scapegoats.”
“These charges are, in our minds, baseless. Our Officers are being made the scapegoats,” Kevin Graham, FOP’s president, said in a statement on behalf of the union. “The decision on whether to release the video of the incident had nothing to do with these Officers.”
“How the special prosecutor can construe a ‘code of silence’ theory defies belief,” Graham added.
Special prosecutor Patricia Holmes in a statement on Tuesday said the indictment goes beyond an “unofficial ‘code of silence.'”
“Rather, it alleges that [the officers] lied about what occurred to prevent independent criminal investigators from learning the truth,” Holmes said.
Detective David March, a 30-year police veteran, and Officers Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney, both with the force for about 20 years, were all charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice and official misconduct. 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.
Officer Jason Van Dyke, who killed 17-year-old McDonald, publicly testified for the first time during a pre-trial hearing on Wednesday. He claimed the statements he made immediately following the shooting were forced for fear of losing his job.
“I don’t remember exactly what was said, but it’s my understanding that if you didn’t cooperate or speak to him, you could be fired, and that I would be fired,” Van Dyke said.
According to the Chicago Sun Times, “After nearly two hours of testimony Wednesday, Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan issued a split decision: statements and reports from Van Dyke’s interviews by March were fair game for prosecutors, while facts generated from Van Dyke’s conversations with McNaughton were off limits.”
Deputy Chief David McNaughton was the highest ranking officer on the scene the night of McDonald’s death.
The indictment against the officers says, “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, which the city delayed for over a year, 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.
The city of Chicago and the Chicago Police Department are currently facing a lawsuit brought on by Black Lives Matter of Chicago and other rights groups, citing “a culture of rampant brutality, especially against people of color.”