Three plead in­no­cent to con­spir­ing to cover up Chicago po­lice killing

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NEWS - DON BABWIN

CHICAGO — A Chicago po­lice of­fi­cer and two for­mer of­fi­cers pleaded in­no­cent Mon­day to con­spir­ing to cover up what hap­pened the night a white of­fi­cer killed a black teenager by shoot­ing him 16 times.

Joseph Walsh, David March and Thomas Gaffney are ac­cused of quickly co­or­di­nat­ing their sto­ries to pro­tect them­selves and other of­fi­cers af­ter the 2014 death of 17-year-old Laquan McDon­ald. The men said lit­tle dur­ing the brief hear­ing, which marked their first court ap­pear­ance since be­ing in­dicted last month.

The in­dict­ment al­leges the of­fi­cers lied when they re­ported the teen ag­gres­sively swung a knife and tried to get up, while still armed, af­ter he was shot by of­fi­cer Ja­son Van Dyke. But po­lice dash­board cam­era video shows the teen was walk­ing away from of­fi­cers with a small knife by his side when he was shot.

The video — which wasn’t pub­licly re­leased un­til a year af­ter the shoot­ing — also shows McDon­ald was spun to the ground as Van Dyke re­peat­edly fired. Van Dyke has pleaded in­no­cent to first-de­gree mur­der, and the city agreed to pay McDon­ald’s fam­ily $5 mil­lion.

Walsh and March, who as a de­tec­tive con­cluded the shoot­ing was jus­ti­fied, have left the Chicago Po­lice De­part­ment. Gaffney is still on the force but, in ac­cor­dance with de­part­ment pol­icy, was sus­pended be­cause of the felony in­dict­ment.

If con­victed of the most se­ri­ous charge, of­fi­cial mis­con­duct, the men could face up to five years in prison.

Cook County Judge Diane Can­non al­lowed the men to stay out of jail Mon­day by or­der­ing them to be fin­ger­printed but re­leas­ing them on their own re­cog­ni­zance. Can­non, a for­mer pros­e­cu­tor, was as­signed to the case af­ter an­other judge re­cused her­self with­out ex­pla­na­tion ear­lier Mon­day.

In 2015, Can­non ac­quit­ted a Chicago po­lice com­man­der who was charged with ag­gra­vated bat­tery with a deadly weapon, ac­cused of shov­ing a gun down a sus­pect’s throat. Lo­cal ac­tivists who at­tended Mon­day’s hear­ing didn’t call on Can­non to re­cuse her­self, say­ing they were con­fi­dent in spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor Pa­tri­cia Brown Holmes’ judg­ment.

Brown Holmes, who was ap­pointed last year to lead an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into McDon­ald’s shoot­ing, de­clined through a spokesman to com­ment af­ter the hear­ing. Walsh, March and Gaffney also didn’t com­ment af­ter the hear­ing.

Walsh’s de­fense at­tor­ney, Tom Breen, said he was con­fi­dent his client would get a fair trial and be found in­no­cent. At­tor­neys for Gaffney and March left the court­house with­out talk­ing to re­porters.

In a state­ment re­leased with the in­dict­ment, Brown Holmes said the of­fi­cers and oth­ers “co­or­di­nated their ac­tiv­i­ties to pro­tect each other and other mem­bers of the Chicago Po­lice De­part­ment.” She said the of­fi­cers went so far as to ig­nore con­trary ev­i­dence and failed to try to in­ter­view key wit­nesses.

The in­dict­ment wasn’t a sur­prise, given that a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor was ap­pointed and the city’s po­lice su­per­in­ten­dent an­nounced he was push­ing to have seven of­fi­cers fired over what they wrote in their re­ports.

Still, such charges are rare against law en­force­ment of­fi­cers, and the in­dict­ment was es­pe­cially jar­ring be­cause it al­leges a con­certed ef­fort to cre­ate a nar­ra­tive to pro­tect Van Dyke.

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