Three current or former Chicago police officers were indicted on Tuesday on state felony charges for their roles in attempting to cover up the shooting death of a black teenager by a white officer, prosecutors said.
The indictments stem from a 2014 incident in which Laquan McDonald, 17, was shot to death by a white police officer. A video of the shooting, released in 2015, sparked days of protests and thrust Chicago into a national debate over the use of excessive force by police against minorities.
Detective David March and officers Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney were each charged with conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice, the special prosecutor, Patricia Brown Holmes, said in a statement.
“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,” Holmes said.
March, Walsh and Gaffney conspired to conceal the true facts surrounding McDonald’s killing in order to protect their fellow officer from criminal investigation and prosecution, the indictment said. They lied about what happened and mischaracterized the video recordings, which they knew would lead to a criminal investigation and likely criminal charges, it said.
When asked if others might face charges, Holmes told reporters the matter is still being investigated.
A police union spokesman declined to comment. A lawyer for the McDonald family did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
March, 58, is a police veteran of more than 30 years. Walsh, 48, and Gaffney, 43, both have about 20 years in the department. All are expected to be arraigned on July 10, according to the prosecutor.
“The shooting of Laquan McDonald forever changed the Chicago Police Department and I am committed to implementing policies and training to prevent an incident like this from happening again,” Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson said in a statement.
Chicago police last month finalized stricter limits on when officers can use firearms and other force, the latest attempt to reform a department roiled by misconduct and criticism in the wake of McDonald’s death.
Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago police officer accused of murder in the shooting of McDonald, was charged in March with 16 new counts of aggravated battery. Van Dyke pleaded not guilty to the 16 counts. He also pleaded not guilty to murder in 2015 and is awaiting trial.
(Additional reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin and Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago; editing by Matthew Lewis, G Crosse)