CHICAGO —There will be no additional indictments of Chicago Police officers for their handling of the controversial police-involved shooting death of Laquan McDonald, the special prosecutor assigned to probe the matter announced Tuesday.
The special prosecutor, Patricia Brown Holmes, said the grand jury — which was convened in November 2016 to look into possible criminal misconduct by other officers involved in the case — has been dismissed.
The grand jury filed charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and misconduct in June against Detective David March and patrol officers Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney for actions they took in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of McDonald. The 17-year-old was shot 16 times by police officer Jason Van Dyke, who was charged with first-degree murder more than a year after the October 2014 shooting.
“After issuing that indictment at the end of June, the Special Grand Jury continued its investigation, including examining the conduct of other individuals, but concluded its inquiry without returning any further indictments,” Holmes said.
Van Dyke was charged with murder in November 2015 on the same day the city of Chicago released chilling dashcam video that showed the officer firing at McDonald, who was armed with a small knife and appeared to be running away from police. The officer has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.
The case triggered weeks of protests in Chicago following the court-ordered release of the video of the shooting and caused tumult for some of the city’s prominent politicians and law enforcement officials.
The county prosecutor at the time, Anita Alvarez, was booted out of office by voters amid an avalanche of criticism over how long it took to file charges. Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired police superintendent Garry McCarthy after concluding it was untenable for his top cop to continue.
Emanuel also saw his standing erode among Chicagoans in the aftermath of the protests. The mayor has since begun to implement a series of changes to try to improve accountability and training for the city’s police officers.
During their year of periodic deliberations, the grand jury honed in on whether some of Van Dyke’s fellow officers at the scene should also face charges. Several officers at the scene told investigators after the shooting that McDonald ignored repeated calls from Van Dyke to drop the knife, putting the officers in danger.
The video footage appears to show that Van Dyke began firing immediately after getting out of his vehicle and continued to fire even after the teen fell to the pavement.
The officers lied about what occurred and mischaracterized the video recordings in the hopes that independent investigators wouldn’t learn what happened and the public would not see the video footage caught on the dashcam, according to the indictment.
March signed off on the statements that several officers at the scene gave following the shooting and indicated there were no discrepancies between what the officers said happened and police dashcam video.
The officers named in the indictment — as well as someone identified as Individual A — coordinated their stories to protect each other and allegedly made false police reports, failed to report or correct false information, ignored contrary information or evidence, obstructed justice and failed to perform mandatory duty, the indictment alleges.
They are also alleged to have submitted, reviewed or approved various police department reports that falsely portrayed Individual A, Walsh and Gaffney as having been assaulted and battered by McDonald.
In a subsequent report, Gaffney, Walsh, Individual A and an officer identified as Individual H were identified as victims of McDonald. That report was submitted to independent investigators by March and two other officers identified as Individual B and Individual E. Further, the officers failed to locate and interview three witnesses whose information was inconsistent with police accounts of what led to the shooting, according to the indictment.
March and Walsh retired from the police force last year after a city Inspector General’s report recommended the pair and nine other officers be fired for their roles in the post-shooting investigation.
Gaffney was suspended without pay after the grand jury handed up the coverup charges.
All three have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial.