McDon­ald grand jury dis­charged; three of­fi­cers charged in teen’s fa­tal shoot­ing

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - BY SAMCHARLES ANDANDYGRIMM Staff Re­porters

No more mem­bers of the Chicago Po­lice Depart­ment will be in­dicted by the grand jury that was im­pan­eled to in­ves­ti­gate the cover- up of the shoot­ing of Laquan McDon­ald in Oc­to­ber 2014.

In a state­ment Tues­day morn­ing, Special Pros­e­cu­tor Pa­tri­cia Brown Holmes said the grand jury, im­pan­eled in Novem­ber 2016, has been dis­charged.

“The Special Grand Jury met nu­mer­ous times; is­sued sub­poe­nas for, re­ceived and re­viewed ev­i­dence; heard tes­ti­mony from wit­nesses; had an op­por­tu­nity to pose ques­tions and have them an­swered, and re­turned a true bill of in­dict­ment with re­spect to the three ac­cused in­di­vid­u­al­swho are pre­sumed in­no­cent in the pend­ing crim­i­nal case,” the state­ment said.

In June, Holmes an­nounced a three count grand jury in­dict­ment charg­ing pa­trol of­fi­cers Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney and de­tec­tive David March with con­spir­acy, ob­struc­tion of jus­tice and of­fi­cial mis­con­duct.

Holmes ac­cused the three men of fil­ing false ac­counts of the Oc­to­ber 2014 shoot­ing to keep Chicago Po­lice Of­fi­cer Ja­son Van Dyke from be­ing ac­cused of any wrong­do­ing. She also said the three failed to in­ter­view wit­nesses who might have con­tra­dicted their faulty ver­sion of events.

March, 58, the lead de­tec­tive in the McDon­ald case, cleared Van Dyke of wrong­do­ing de­spite dash­cam video that ap­pears to show McDon­ald walk­ing away from Van Dyke when he opened fire and shot the teen 16 times.

Van Dyke was charged with first- de­gree mur­der in Novem­ber 2015 on the day be­fore that video was pub­licly re­leased.

At hear­ings in the months since an­nounc­ing charges against the three of­fi­cers, Holmes had said she was wait­ing to bring wit­nesses be­fore the grand jury who had been dif­fi­cult to lo­cate or were un­avail­able.

As far back as Au­gust, Holmes said she was close to wind­ing up her in­ves­ti­ga­tion and dis­band­ing the grand jury.

Craig Fut­ter­man, a Univer­sity of Chicago Law School pro­fes­sor who was one of the lawyers press­ing Chief Crim­i­nal Judge LeRoy K. Martin to as­sign a special pros­e­cu­tor to probe the CPD’s han­dling of the McDon­ald in­ves­ti­ga­tion, said the charges against the three of­fi­cers ear­lier this year marked the first time po­lice had faced jail time for up­hold­ing a “code of si­lence” to pro­tect other cops. But Fut­ter­man was dis­ap­pointed Holmes didn’t bring charges against high­rank­ing of­fi­cers who signed off on false re­ports.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that the three who were in­dicted were all cul­pa­ble and should have been charged,” Fut­ter­man said. “Tome, it was even­more im­por­tant to go af­ter the brass who signed off on those lies and made those lies the of­fi­cial nar­ra­tive of the po­lice depart­ment.

“[ Lower- rank­ing of­fi­cers] know that if they go against the of­fi­cial nar­ra­tive, they would be crushed, their ca­reers would be over.”

The 11- page in­dict­ment lays out a con­spir­acy by March; Walsh, 48, who was Van Dyke’s part­ner; and Gaffney, 43, an of­fi­cer who was one of the first to en­counter McDon­ald the night of Oc­to­ber 21, 2014. The in­dict­ment refers to Van Dyke as “In­di­vid­ual A” and also in­cludes other of­fi­cers, iden­ti­fied as uniden­ti­fied in­di­vid­u­als “B” through “G.”

Kevin Gra­ham, pres­i­dent of the Fra­ter­nal Order of Po­lice, the union that rep­re­sents the CPD’s rankand­file of­fi­cers, said in an emailed state­ment:

“We main­tained from the out­set that the in­dict­ment of these of­fi­cers on scene was not le­git­i­mate. While we are re­lieved that there are no new in­dict­ments slated, we be­lieve a great deal of dam­age has al­ready been done by the special pros­e­cu­tor. We look for­ward to these of­fi­cers be­ing vin­di­cated.”

March, the de­tec­tive, re­signed in Au­gust 2016 af­ter a city of Chicago in­spec­tor gen­eral’s re­port said the vet­eran de­tec­tive should be fired for his han­dling of the case. The same re­port also called for fir­ing Walsh, Van Dyke’s part­ner, who told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that McDon­ald had been mov­ing to­ward him and Van Dyke and was pre­par­ing to throw a knife at them when Van Dyke opened fire.

Cited in the in­dict­ment were en­tries in re­ports filed by March and other of­fi­cers that de­picted McDon­ald as mov­ing to­ward the of­fi­cers with his arms raised — and that the teen at­tempted to get up af­ter he was shot. The in­dict­ment notes that March viewed the video and wrote in one re­port that the images were “con­sis­tent with the ac­counts of all wit­nesses.”

The in­dict­ment also notes that the of­fi­cers did not make an ef­fort to lo­cate wit­nesses whose ac­counts of the shoot­ing didn’t match the of­fi­cial ver­sion in po­lice re­ports.


In this Oct. 20, 2014, frame from dash­cam video, Laquan McDon­ald ( right) walks down the street mo­ments be­fore be­ing fa­tally shot by CPD Of­fi­cer Ja­son Van Dyke.

Pa­tri­cia Brown Holmes

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