Three Chicago police officers were charged with conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice Tuesday, linked to the investigation into the death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, a Black teenager who was fatally shot 16 times by Jason Van Dyke, a white Chicago police officer in October 2014.
According to a separate probe in the trial that charged Van Dyke with the murder, the indictment announced Tuesday stated the three police officers at the scene with Van Dyke had lied.
According to court documents, Detective David March and patrol officers Thomas Gaffney and Joseph Walsh, who was Van Dyke's partner that night, were also accused of “coordinating their activities” to protect one another and preparing, reviewing or approving false police reports.
The indictment stated that the three officers failed to interview witnesses and misled other investigators, hiding the sequence of events that transpired that night.
Special Prosecutor Patricia Brown Holmes, former president of the Black Women Lawyers Association Chicago, announced the new charges, saying, “The indictment makes clear that these defendants did more than merely obey an unofficial ‘code of silence.'"
“Rather, it alleges that they lied about what occurred to prevent independent criminal investigators from learning the truth," New York Times reported. "It is unacceptable to obey an unofficial code of silence," Holmes said who was appointed in July 2016 to investigate the case.
Detective David March and patrol officers Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney each face felony charges for their alleged role in the cover-up. If convicted, each of them would face multiple years in prison for obstructing justice and protecting Van Dyke. So far, no one has been arrested but they'll have to appear at an arraignment July 10.
In November 2015, the video of the shooting was released leading to citywide protests seeking major reforms from the police department. Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder the same day the video was released and is awaiting trial.
According to the indictment, March had told the inspector general that his investigation found that the actions of all the officers were "absolutely proper," further emphasizing the department's stance shifted after the video was released.
According to the inspector general, Walsh too had made numerous false statements and significant omissions in his interview with the police and the Independent Police Review Authority, that investigates police shootings.