A grand jury indicted three Chicago police officers Tuesday on felony charges connected to the fatal police killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
The officers—two of whom are no longer on the force—are accused of conspiring to cover up the facts regarding the incident.
Officer Jason Van Dyke, who is White, shot McDonald 16 times in October 2014, according to prosecutors. Dashcam footage that was released under a court order more than a year after the killing sparked mass protests across the nation. The footage showed Van Dyke shooting the African-American teen as he walked away from him.
He has been charged with first-degree murder and entered a plea of not guilty.
Initially, police said the teen posed a threat to police. A Cook County grand jury indictment alleges that officers David March, Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney were at the scene of the shooting and collectively worked to hide key facts in the initial police report.
The report was shown to conflict with the dashcam footage. It stated that Van Dyke, Walsh and Gaffney were “victims” of McDonald and that the teen was lunging at Van Dyke while slashing a knife when he was shot.
“The indictment makes clear that these defendants did more than merely obey an unofficial ‘code of silence,’ ” Special Prosecutor Patricia Holmes Brown said in a statement sent to NPR. “[R]ather it alleges that they lied about what occurred to prevent independent criminal investigators from learning the truth.”
The indictment accuses the officers of knowing a “public airing of the events surrounding Laquan McDonald’s killing, including the video recordings, would inexorably lead to a thorough criminal investigation by an independent body and likely criminal charges.”
The officers in question are accused of failing to locate the minimum required number of witnesses who may have presented an alternative version of different events, and coordinating with each other in an attempt to conceal the conspiracy from other law enforcement officials.
March is also accused of allegedly failing “to locate, identify, and preserve physical evidence … including video and photographic evidence.”
The Associated Press reports that Walsh and March are no longer on the force.
All three men are not in custody and are scheduled to appear at an arraignment on July 10.
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