Three current and former Chicago police officers were indicted Tuesday for their alleged efforts to cover up what happened in the police shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald.
A grand jury indicted Detective David March and patrol officers Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney on charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and misconduct related to the aftermath of 17-year-old McDonald’s death in October, 2014.
“The indictment makes clear that these defendants did more than merely obey an unofficial ‘code of silence,’” said Patrick Brown Holmes, an attorney who is serving as special prosecutor in the investigation. “Rather, it alleges that they lied about what occurred to prevent independent criminal investigators from learning the truth.”
March, 58, was with the Chicago Police Department for 34 years. Walsh, 48, was with the department for about 20 years, and was named as a defendant in a separate misconduct lawsuit involving a minor in 2012. Gaffney, 43, was also with the department about 20 years. Their arraignment is scheduled for July 10.
Officer Jason Van Dyke, who allegedly shot McDonald 16 times, was indicted last December by a grand jury on six counts of first-degree murder and one count of misconduct. Months earlier, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson had fired Van Dyke and several other officers involved in the shooting.
The shooting and the subsequent cover-up put a spotlight on policing in Chicago. Video footage showing the teenager’s body being riddled with bullets was released via court order in November 2015, sparking citywide protests. The following month, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division announced that it was launching an investigation into Chicago’s policing practices. In January this year, investigators came back with their findings, revealing how officers routinely operate on racial discrimination and force. It’s not clear what happens next for Chicago, where the new administration is trying to curb DOJ involvement in local police departments.
The increased scrutiny on Chicago Police Department also coincides with skyrocketing homicide rates in the windy city — which some criminologists have chalked up to officers making fewer arrests in high-crime areas.