Accused of making false reports and covering up the police shooting of a 17-year-old boy caught on video, seven Chicago police officers involved in the death of Laquan McDonald could be terminated for their actions following the shooting. Although the city’s inspector general recommended firing 10 cops, at least two of the officers have retired since the incident.
Surrounded by officers and suspected of breaking into cars on October 20, 2014, McDonald was attempting to walk away from a group of Chicago cops when Officer Jason Van Dyke exited his patrol car. According to initial reports, McDonald was armed with a knife and lunged at Officer Van Dyke. Fearing for his life and the lives of his fellow officers, Van Dyke shot the teen in the chest out of self-defense.
But according to witness statements and police dashcam video, McDonald was walking away when Van Dyke took a step towards the teen before opening fire. After McDonald collapsed to the ground in a fetal position, Van Dyke continued firing his weapon until emptying his clip. As Van Dyke began reloading his gun, a fellow officer had to order him to cease firing at the defenseless teen.
McDonald’s autopsy revealed that Van Dyke shot him 16 times, including two bullets in the back, seven in his arms, two in his right leg, once on each side of his chest, and single bullet wounds to his right hand, scalp, and neck. Nine of the 16 entrance wounds had a downward trajectory. None of the five other officers at the scene fired their weapons.
Before McDonald’s family could even file a lawsuit, the city gave them a $5 million settlement on the condition that the family agreed not to publicly release the dashcam footage of the teen’s death. After suppressing the video for 13 months, the city received a court order to release the footage, which clearly shows McDonald did not lunge at the officers before the fatal shooting.
In May 2015, Burger King district manager Jay Darshane accused officers of deleting security footage after they spent over three hours in the fast food restaurant on the night of the shooting. According to Darshane, the video equipment was working properly, but 86 minutes of footage, from 9:13 p.m. to 10:39 p.m., disappeared after the officers left.
Charged with first-degree murder for killing McDonald, Van Dyke fired his first shot at 9:57 p.m. When asked if he was certain that the officers deleted the footage of the killing, Darshane answered, “Yes.”
Earlier this week, Inspector General Joseph Ferguson accused 10 Chicago cops of making false reports about the McDonald shooting and recommended firing eight of the officers, due to the fact that two had recently retired. According to the Chicago Tribune, Deputy Chief David McNaughton and Lt. Anthony Wojcik were both involved in the investigation and retired before the release of the inspector general’s report. In charge of the shooting scene, McNaughton had falsely reported that McDonald was approaching Van Dyke when the officer opened fire.
On Thursday, Superintendent Eddie Johnson called for seven of the officers involved in McDonald’s investigation to be terminated for writing false reports and giving false statements. Although Johnson did not publicly disclose the names of the officers, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Van Dyke’s partner on the night of the shooting, Joseph Walsh, is among the seven officers facing termination.
Unable to unilaterally fire the seven officers, Johnson has stripped them of their police status pending a decision from the Chicago Police Board. Accused of obstructing a police investigation and making false statements, no other officer except Van Dyke currently faces criminal charges.