Report Reveals Officer Cover Up In Laquan McDonald Shooting
|Oct 15, 2019|
Chicago’s Inspector General released a report stating there were at least 16 officers who were involved in the cover-up of the shooting of Laquan McDonald five years ago.
The report obtained by WMAQ-TV, which is 6,500 pages in length, states there were several officers who committed ethical and internal violations to protect former officer Jason Van Dyke after he shot McDonald during a recorded incident in 2014.
Van Dyke shot 17-year-old McDonald 16 times on October 20, 2014, after responding to a report the teen was breaking into cars and had a knife, Essence previously reported. The former officer claimed he feared for his life to justify shooting the teen, but dashcam footage showed McDonald walking away from officers when he was shot. In 2018, Van Dyke was convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm. He is currently serving a 6 ¾ years sentence in federal prison.
The inspector general report was released on October 9. It came after a City Council ordinance passed in September, which gives Chicago’s corporation counsel the authority to release any reports by Inspector General Joseph Ferguson if they involve “sustained findings regarding conduct that either is associated with a death or is, or may be, a felony as defined in the Illinois Criminal Code and is of a compelling public interest," WMAQ-TV reported. The Fraternal Order of Police previously opposed releasing Ferguson’s report.
The report obtained by the news station stated Van Dyke lied during an interview with the police review board two days after the shooting took place. The former officer said during the interview McDonald was approaching him with a knife in his hand despite shouting orders to drop the knife.
“Van Dyke’s false reports, false statements and material omissions all served to exaggerate the threat McDonald posed,” the report reads.
The report also mentions two Cook County Sheriff’s deputies who arrived at the scene after the shooting. One of the deputies reportedly stood near McDonald and did not administer aid.
Another page of the report states that Anthony Wojcik, a former Chicago Police Department lieutenant, who was also at the scene of the shooting, improperly destroyed three original general progress reports containing notes from detectives from three witness statements the night of the shooting.
In July, four Chicago police officers were fired for attempting to cover up the shooting. On July 18, the Chicago Police Board fired Sergeant Stephen Franko and officers Janet Mondrago, Daphne Sebastian and Ricardo Viramontes, The Chicago Tribune previously reported. After an investigation by Ferguson’s office, officers defended Van Dyke despite the footage on the police dash-cam that showed Van Dyke was lying.
Viramontes, Mondragon, and Sebastian were all present when Van Dyke shot the 17-year-old in 2014. Mondragon claimed she was shifting her squad car into park when Van Dyke fired his gun. She later admitted that it only took a few seconds to shift her gear into park, according to The Chicago Tribune. Sebastian alleged that McDonald came towards the officers while waving a knife in his hand, which was found to be “demonstrably false.” Franko was fired for signing off on the officers’ “critical case reports” which contained “several demonstrable and known falsehoods,” ABC News previously reported.
“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.”
Although they were fired, 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 previously told ABC News. “The affected members have further options they may exercise if they so choose.”
In January, three other police officers, including Van Dyke’s former partner, were acquitted by a Cook County judge of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and official misconduct charges in the case.
About the Author
Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.