Four Chicago Police Officers Fired In Cover-Up of Laquan McDonald's Murder

Four Chicago police officers were fired for attempting to cover up the murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by Officer Jason Van Dyke in 2014. None of the officers disciplined are ranked higher than sergeant.

The Chicago Police Board voted on July 18 to fire Sergeant Stephen Franko and officers Janet Mondragon, Daphne Sebastian, and Ricardo Viramontes, effective immediately. Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson’s office conducted a disciplinary investigation that determined officers came to the defense of Van Dyke despite watching police dashcam footage of the shooting that disputed officers’ accounts.

Mondragon, Sebastian, and Viramontes were fired for exaggerating the threat McDonald posed the night of the shooting in order to justify Van Dyke’s actions. The three officers were present when Van Dyke brutally killed McDonald.

According to The Chicago Tribune, Mondragon claimed she was shifting her squad car into park when Van Dyke opened fire on McDonald. She later admitted that it only takes a few seconds to put the vehicle in park.

Sebastian alleged that McDonald advanced towards officers waving a knife in his hand, which was found to be “demonstrably false.” She was found to have violated several department rules but was narrowly cleared of making a false statement.

“It was their statements that would be used by investigators to determine whether the fatal shooting of Mr. McDonald was justified — or whether a crime by their fellow officer had been committed,” the board wrote.

“As sworn officers, each understood the importance of their statements to that investigation and understood that their statements must be truthful and complete. Each of the three officers failed in their duty — either by outright lying or by shading the truth.”

Franko, the highest-ranking officer facing discipline, was fired for signing off on the officers’ “critical case reports” that contained “several demonstrable and known falsehoods.” The four officers can appeal the decision through the courts.

“The department is bound by the decision of the board,” Chicago Police Department spokesman Thomas Ahern told ABC News. “The affected members have further options they may exercise if they so choose.”

The inspector general’s office recommended the termination of 11 officers, including Deputy Chief David McNaughton and Chief of Detectives Eugene Roy. McNaughton and Roy both retired before Superintendent Eddie Johnson acted on the office’s recommendations.

Johnson, then a deputy chief, reportedly watched video of the shooting during a meeting in 2014 with other police department officials and did not question whether the shooting was justified, a colleague said in a sworn testimonial.

“Well, it’s legal, but it’s not justice,” Franko’s attorney, Thomas Pleines, told The Chicago Tribune about higher ranking police officials avoiding punishment. “The higher-ranking officers, as you would expect, had more time on the job, they were older and they were eligible to take their pension benefits, thereby escaping any culpability for what they did.”

The Fraternal Order of Police blasted the board’s ruling and claimed it will “no doubt lead to more violence in the city and quite likely more violence against the police,” according to ABC News.

In January, three other officers, including Van Dyke’s partner, were acquitted by a Cook County judge of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and official misconduct charges in the case, WCTV reported.

On October 20, 2014, Van Dyke fired 16 shots at McDonald in just 15 seconds after responding to reports that the teen was breaking into cars and had a knife. The officer said he feared for his life, a claim that was disputed when dashcam footage showed McDonald walking away from officers when he was shot, Essence reported.

Van Dyke was convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm in 2018. He is serving a 6 3/4 years sentence in federal prison. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Van Dyke is being held at FCI Otisville, a medium security correctional facility in Otisville, New York.

Van Dyke’s conviction represents the first time in 50 years that a police officer has been convicted of murder in Chicago.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.