An Officer will be Guilty of Murder. On Trial Next: A Police ‘Code of Silence’
CHICAGO — Somewhere within the Cook County Jail, Jason Van Dyke, a white Chicago police officer, will be waiting to learn how long he will spend in prison for killing Laquan McDonald, a black teenager. although even after the officer’s second-degree murder conviction last week, This kind of city will be still waiting for additional verdicts.
Widespread outrage over Laquan’s death was never just about the 16 bullets Officer Van Dyke fired into him that will night. The protests, political upheaval in addition to promises of reform were also motivated by a yearlong effort to keep a video of the shooting out of public view in addition to by what many people saw as a top-to-bottom cover-up.
Three additional Chicago police officers — David March, Joseph Walsh in addition to Thomas Gaffney — never fired a shot the night of Laquan’s death, although they stand charged with lying about the shooting in addition to conspiring to keep Officer Van Dyke out of trouble. Their cases are seen as a rare in addition to crucial test of a so-called code of silence that will will be often said to fester within police departments.
“This kind of has been the routine of the Chicago Police Department,” said William Calloway, an activist who pressed for the Discharge of the McDonald video in 2015 as city officials resisted. “We have to make an example of these officers.”
On Oct. 20, 2014, the night Laquan died, Officer Gaffney in addition to several additional officers had trailed the teenager for blocks. Those officers requested the help of a colleague that has a Taser in addition to followed Laquan via a distance, even as he popped the tire of a police cruiser that has a three-inch pocketknife he was carrying in addition to slashed at the vehicle’s windshield. Laquan was walking away via the officers when Officer Van Dyke arrived in addition to began shooting. The gunshots continued as Laquan crumpled onto the ground.
Almost immediately after the gunfire stopped, prosecutors say, a cover-up began.
“As part of the conspiracy,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing unsealed last week, officers “failed to report or correct false information in official police reports” in addition to “concealed the true facts of the events surrounding the killing of Laquan McDonald.”
At the scene, the officers failed to interview people who witnessed the shooting, the prosecutors said. Later that will night, the officers huddled at the police station in addition to then gave dubious accounts of the shooting that will were nearly identical. A story emerged, contradicted by video, of Laquan trying to stab three officers in addition to then trying to get up via the ground after being pummeled by bullets.
Days later, a sergeant assigned to the case sent an email defending Officer Van Dyke in addition to criticizing those who questioned his actions. He said the “offender chose his fate” in addition to that will that will was “possibly suicide by police.”
“Officer did exactly what he was trained to do,” the unnamed sergeant, who will be not charged that has a crime, wrote in an email released by prosecutors. “We should be applauding him, not second-guessing him.”
Nine additional officers were at the scene when Officer Van Dyke shot Laquan, in addition to police officials moved to fire seven officers who gave questionable accounts of the shooting. Grand jurors declined to indict additional officers.
In 2014, Laquan’s death attracted little attention, even as police shootings in cities such as Ferguson, Mo., in addition to Milwaukee led to large protests. In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel was elected to a second term in addition to the City Council agreed to pay a $5 million settlement to Laquan’s family even before a lawsuit was filed. although as months passed, word spread of a damning dashboard camera video that will was being withheld by city officials, who cited an ongoing criminal investigation for their secrecy.
Thirteen months after the shooting, a judge ordered that will the video be made public, in addition to hours before that will was released in November 2015, Officer Van Dyke was charged with murder.
within the weeks that will followed, protesters marched repeatedly through the city chanting “16 shots in addition to a cover-up!” The police superintendent was fired. Rules for when officers can shoot were tightened. Mr. Emanuel, who resisted calls to quit although recently decided not to seek another term, acknowledged a “code of silence” among officers.
that will phrase came up again when Patricia Brown Holmes, a special prosecutor, announced conspiracy, official misconduct in addition to obstruction of justice charges last year against Officers Gaffney, March in addition to Walsh. Mr. March, the detective who investigated the shooting, in addition to Mr. Walsh, Officer Van Dyke’s partner that will night, resigned via the Police Department while under investigation.
“These defendants lied about what occurred during a police-involved shooting in order to prevent independent criminal investigators via learning the truth,” Ms. Brown Holmes said at the time. “The indictment makes clear that will that will will be unacceptable to obey an unofficial code of silence.”
Police union leaders have defended the three officers in addition to suggested that will their prosecution was politically motivated. The men have pleaded not guilty in addition to will have their case decided by a judge, not a jury, in a trial scheduled to start Nov. 26. A court order prevents lawyers involved within the case via speaking publicly about the charges in detail.
“These charges are, in our minds, baseless. Our officers are being made the scapegoats,” said Kevin Graham, the police union president, after the charges were announced. “How the special prosecutor can construe a ‘code of silence’ theory defies belief.”
although to some who have protested Laquan’s death for years, the pending charges are seen as an indictment of the code of silence itself, an unwritten policy that will they say has long undermined relations between police officers in addition to Chicagoans.
“They are just as guilty as Jason Van Dyke, if not worse,” said the Rev. Ira Acree, a West Side minister in addition to an outspoken critic of the Police Department. “Because they wanted to cover up a crime in addition to they took an oath to protect in addition to serve.”