- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Three current or former Chicago police officers were indicted Tuesday on felony charges related to a conspiracy to cover up the circumstances surrounding another officer’s fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

The special prosecutor assigned to pursue the investigation announced the charges of conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice against Detective David March and patrol officers Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney.

“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,” said special prosecutor Patricia Brown Holmes.

The indictments represent the latest fallout for the department related to the 2014 shooting, which led to the dismissal of the former police superintendent, protests across the city after video of the shooting was released, and murder charges filed against the officer involved.

The city has faced intense criticism over the investigation into the death of the black teenager, who was shot 16 times by white Officer Jason Van Dyke.

Video of the shooting was released in 2015 after a lengthy public records battle and contradicted information police initially released about the incident.

According to the indictment, the officers conspired to “shield their fellow officer from criminal investigation and prosecution,” lied about the facts of the shooting, and mischaracterized what was captured on video recordings of the incident in a bid to prevent them from being released to the public or viewed by independent criminal investigators.

Prior media reports identify Officer Walsh as Officer Van Dyke’s partner on the night of the shooting. Detective March was the detective overseeing the shooting investigation, and Officer Gaffney was one of the officers on the scene.

Officer Van Dyke is currently facing murder charges for the shooting.

According to the indictment, a series of police reports filed on the shooting falsely state that McDonald assaulted Officers Walsh and Gaffney as well as Officer Van Dyke, who is referred to as Individual A in the indictment. The original police report on the shooting, which was written and approved by Detective March, states that McDonald committed aggravated assaults against the three officers, finally forcing Individual A, in defense of his life, to shoot and kill McDonald.”

Dashboard camera footage from a police cruiser at the scene shows the scenario unfold and Officer Van Dyke open fire for about 14 seconds, even as McDonald had fallen to the ground. The video shows McDonald walking down the middle of a road when police cars pull up around him and two officers emerge. He appears to be walking away from the officers when Officer Van Dyke opens fire.

But according to the indictment, the officers wrote in a supplemental report that dashboard camera footage was consistent with the officers’ accounts that McDonald lunged at them with a knife and tried to get up off the ground to attack them after he had been shot.

Detective March had been on the department 30 years. Officers Walsh and Gaffney had both been on the force for 20 years. All three men are expected to appear in court for an arraignment on July 10.

Ms. Holmes said the grand jury investigation continues.

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