Former prosecutor acquits 3 cops accused of falsifying reports in Laquan McDonald shooting
Chicago officers David March, Joseph Walsh, and Thomas Gaffney have just been acquitted of felony charges of conspiring to cover up the 2014 shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
On Oct. 20, 2014, Officer Jason Van Dyke fired 16 shots at McDonald. March, Walsh and Gaffney were all present at the scene. Prosecutors accused the officer bystanders of falsifying reports to hinder the investigation.
In a June 2017 statement, special prosecutor Patricia Brown Holmes argued that March, Walsh and Gaffney “conspired in the critical early hours and days… to conceal the true facts of the events surrounding the killing of Laquan McDonald… to shield their fellow officer from criminal investigation and prosecution,” according to NBC Chicago.
Walsh, who was Van Dyke’s partner, gave conflicting accounts of the scene. March, the lead detective, defended Van Dyke’s actions by writing the officer allegedly acted in self-defense. However, the body camera footage that was released after many protests contradicted both narratives.
Judge Domenica Stephenson, a former prosecutor, acquitted the officers, saying that the special prosecutor’s investigation did not adequately prove conspiracy or obstruction. She adds that the video capturing McDonald’s death left blank spots and was “nothing more than speculation.”
The officers’ defense attorneys argue that officers should not be jailed over what he described as simple mischaracterizations.
“She concluded, as we did a year before, that there never was a case here,” said defense attorney Todd Pugh.
As the cops and their families clapped for their victory, many community members criticized the decision.
Local activist William Calloway, who was a major actor in the campaign to release the video of McDonald’s shooting, said, “Today we’re disappointed. We’re devastated. I mean, we’ve been fighting for justice for Laquan for four years… We want to heal. We want to get past this saga of Laquan.”
Rev. Marvin Hunter, McDonald’s great-uncle, is demanding the government open an internal investigation into the systemic corruption of Cook County.
“This is not justice,” Hunter told reporters. “I think this judge had it made up in her mind… to make sure that these gentlemen never see the inside of a jail cell.”
Van Dyke was convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery in October 2018. He is slated to be sentenced today.