CHICAGO (AP) - Three Chicago police officers have been acquitted of charges that they tried to cover up the 2014 shooting death of black teenager Laquan McDonald to protect the officer who pulled the trigger.
Cook County Judge Domenica Stephenson on Thursday acquitted former Officer Joseph Walsh, former Detective David March and Officer Thomas Gaffney on charges of conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice. The officer who shot McDonald 16 times, Jason Van Dyke, was convicted of murder in October and is due to be sentenced Friday.
Some key moments in the case:
Oct. 20: Van Dyke fatally shoots McDonald after responding to a call about a teenager breaking into vehicles in a trucking yard. Other officers back Van Dyke’s claim that McDonald, who had a small knife with its blade folded, posed a threat to Van Dyke’s life.
April 15: The Chicago City Council approves a $5 million settlement with McDonald’s family.
Nov. 24: Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez announces that she is charging Van Dyke with first-degree murder. Hours later, the city responds to a judge’s order and releases dashcam video of the shooting that shows McDonald veering away from officers. The footage contradicts the accounts of Van Dyke and other officers on the scene that he lunged at them with the knife. The video’s release sparks days of protests.
Dec. 1: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel fires police Superintendent Garry McCarthy after a public outcry over the handling of the McDonald case.
Dec. 7: The U.S. Department of Justice announces that its civil rights division will investigate the police force, looking for patterns of racial disparity in its use of force.
Dec. 9: Emanuel apologizes for McDonald’s killing in a speech before the City Council. He says Chicago’s police force needs “complete and total reform.”
Dec. 16: A grand jury indicts Van Dyke on charges of first-degree murder and official misconduct.
Feb. 16: The city of Chicago says it will release videos of police shootings and in-custody deaths within 60 days, after being criticized for refusing to release the McDonald shooting video for more than a year.
March 16: Alvarez loses the Democratic primary to challenger Kim Foxx, who goes on to become the first African-American woman to lead the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.
April 12: A task force established by Emanuel to look into police practices in the wake of the McDonald shooting says the department must acknowledge its racist past and overhaul its handling of excessive force allegations. It also recommends abolishing the Independent Police Review Authority, which investigates officer misconduct.
April 21: Emanuel announces changes to how police shootings and misconduct cases are handled, but draws criticism for stopping short of abolishing the Independent Police Review Authority.
May 13: Emanuel announces that he is abolishing the Independent Police Review Authority and replacing it with the Civilian Police Investigative Agency, which will have more independence and resources.
June 3: Chicago releases hundreds of videos that offer startling glimpses into violent encounters involving police, including the fatal shooting of a robbery suspect speeding toward officers in a van and an incident in which an officer slammed his night stick against a man’s head at a party.
Aug. 18: Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson says seven Chicago police officers should be fired for filing false reports in the McDonald shooting.
Oct. 7: Johnson releases details of a proposed new policy that would require officers to use the least amount of force necessary and emphasizes the “sanctity of life.”
Nov. 16: A special prosecutor says a grand jury has been impaneled to hear evidence into a possible cover-up by Chicago police officers in the McDonald shooting.
Jan. 13: The Justice Department announces the findings of its civil rights investigation. It says the Chicago Police Department has violated the constitutional rights of residents for years - permitting racial bias against blacks, using excessive force and killing people who didn’t pose a threat. It concludes that the pattern was attributable to “systemic deficiencies” within the department and the city, including insufficient training and a failure to hold bad officers accountable for misconduct.
March 23: A grand jury adds 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm to the first-degree murder charges against Van Dyke in the McDonald shooting.
May 17: The Police Department releases a new use of force policy that requires its officers to undergo de-escalation training and imposes stricter rules on when they can fire their weapons at fleeing suspects.
June 3: Media reports say the city of Chicago and the Justice Department have negotiated a draft agreement that calls for an independent monitor to oversee changes for the police force, which is the nation’s second largest. But it is unclear whether there will be court oversight at some stage in the future.
June 14: Leading community groups, including a Black Lives Matter organization, file a class-action lawsuit against Chicago in a bid to bypass or scuttle a draft agreement between the city and the Justice Department that seeks to reform the police without federal court oversight.
June 27: Three Chicago police officers are indicted on felony charges that they conspired to cover up Van Dyke’s actions in the killing of McDonald.
Aug. 28: The city of Chicago changes course and says it wants to carry out far-reaching reforms of its police under strict federal court supervision, abandoning a draft deal on reforms with President Donald Trump’s administration that envisioned no court role.
Nov. 14: The grand jury that indicted three Chicago police officers on charges that they conspired to cover up what happened when Van Dyke fatally shot McDonald disbands without indicting anyone else in the department.
Dec. 11: The Chicago Police Department says all patrol officers are now equipped with body cameras.
March 20: The American Civil Liberties Union and several community organizations say that they have reached an agreement to provide input into changes being proposed for the Chicago Police Department.
Sept. 13: Lawyers finish choosing 12 jurors and five alternates for Van Dyke’s murder trial. Emanuel and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, meanwhile, unveil an updated plan to reform the city’s police, saying it will ensure permanent, far-reaching changes within a 12,000-officer department that has a long history of committing serious civil rights abuses. The more than 200-page document is submitted to U.S. District Judge Robert Dow for his consideration.
Sept. 17: Testimony begins in Van Dyke’s trial. He is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated battery and official misconduct.
Oct. 4: Jury begins deliberations after being told that they can consider the lesser charge of second-degree murder if they do not find Van Dyke guilty of first-degree murder.
Oct. 5: Van Dyke is found guilty of second-degree murder.
Nov. 27: The bench trial of ex-Officer Joseph Walsh, former Detective David March and Officer Thomas Gaffney begins. They are charged with lying to protect Van Dyke from criminal prosecution after he fatally shot McDonald.
Dec. 6: After hearing a week’s worth of testimony, Cook County Judge Domenica Stephenson says she will analyze the evidence before delivering her verdict to the three.
Jan. 17: Stephenson acquits Walsh, March and Gaffney of trying to cover up the shooting death of McDonald.
For the AP’s complete coverage of the Jason Van Dyke case: https://apnews.com/tag/LaquanMcDonald
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