Chicago cops acquitted of covering up police shooting of Laquan McDonald

Clay Curtis
January 21, 2019

CHICAGO-Former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was sentenced on Friday to almost seven years in prison for shooting teen Laquan McDonald to death in 2014 in a landmark case that highlighted racial tensions in America's third-biggest city. He is scheduled to be sentenced Friday. She singled out how they preserved the graphic video at the heart of the case.

Prosecutors claim the police reports filed by those officers were part of a conspiracy to cover up for Officer Jason Van Dyke, who shot McDonald 16 times on October 20, 2014.

Other current and former officers spoke about how Van Dyke was a good cop, and how McDonald would not have been shot had he dropped the knife.

Several black motorists testified Friday that the white officer who fatally shot Laquan McDonald used racial slurs and excessive force during traffic stops in the years before the 2014 killing that was captured on a shocking dashcam video.

All the evidence needed to be taken into account, Stephenson said, and to say that discrepancies between the officers' accounts and the video pointed to a conspiracy was "nothing more than speculation".

Officer Dora Fontaine testified March had instructed her to report that McDonald had threatened officers at the scene, despite her not seeing that occur.

Van Dyke's 17-year-old daughter, Kaylee, also gave a statement that detailed how she is depressed and has been bullied since her father was charged.

Prosecutors alleged that Gaffney, March and Walsh, who was Van Dyke's partner, submitted false reports about what happened to try to prevent or shape any criminal investigation of the shooting.

"With so many members of our Black and Brown communities criminalized and jailed for non-violent drug offenses, Van Dyke's sentence today shows that our lives don't matter", Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, a top candidate who's African-American, said in a written statement.

Ahead of Friday's sentencing, lawyers for Van Dyke asked for probation, the minimum punishment in IL for second-degree murder.

"This is a victory for America", the Rev. Marvin Hunter, McDonald's great uncle, told reporters after the verdict past year.

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My biggest fear is that someone will kill my husband for something he did as a police officer.

The teen, who was carrying a small knife, can be seen collapsing in a heap after the first few shots, and bullets kept hitting his body for 10 more seconds.

The judge said prosecutors failed to prove a coordinated conspiracy. "It does not necessarily mean that one is lying", she said.

The footage showed Van Dyke opening fire within seconds of getting out of his police SUV and continuing to shoot the teen while he was lying on the street.

The judge also noted several times that the "vantage point" of various officers who witnessed the shooting were "completely different".

The altercation began with a call that a knife-wielding man was trying to break into trucks to steal radios.

"I will have to live with this the rest of my life. taking it to my grave", he said, adding: "I was a police officer trying to make unsafe decisions". And they said there was no evidence that the officers conspired to get their stories straight.

Changes implemented in Chicago include a requirement that the city release video of fatal police shootings within 60 days. The prosecutor who oversaw the case said he can live with the sentence.

Days of protests erupted in the third-largest US city when a dashboard camera video of the October 20, 2014, shooting was released more than a year later in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

Video of the shooting led to protests, a Justice Department civil rights investigation, criticism of the mayor and, eventually, the ouster of the police superintendent. In a City mired by years of police corruption, all it takes is one fatal mistake.

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