On Wednesday, the city of Chicago released a watchdog report showing an alleged cover-up following the 2014 police killing of black teenager Laquan McDonald.
At least 16 police officers were involved in numerous violations to obscure the facts around police officer Jason Van Dyke’s shooting of McDonald, who was 17. The documents come from a 2016 investigation by Chicago’s Inspector General, Joseph Ferguson.
According to the documents, Van Dyke gave false statements “to exaggerate the danger McDonald posed.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said: “Our residents have a right to understand the decisions being made by their government. The release of these documents today represents the first of many steps we are taking to ensure our City operates with nothing short of the highest levels of transparency.”
Van Dyke convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to six years and nine months in prison. According to the documents, he “made numerous false statements and material omissions” that were contradicted by dashcam footage and Dunkin’ Donuts security video.
The investigation found that:
The objective evidence presented in the video cannot be squared with Van Dyke’s claim that McDonald was “attacking Van Dyke with a knife” and “attempting to kill” him.
In addition, Van Dyke made multiple material omissions... In particular, Van Dyke failed to state that McDonald was walking away from him prior to the shooting.
The report also found that former Sgt. Stephen Franko reviewed and approved Van Dyke’s false statements, serving “to establish the false narrative that McDonald initiated an attack on Van Dyke.”
Two officers, according to the investigation, lied and said that they heard Van Dyke tell McDonald to drop a weapon, giving statements that served to “mischaracterize the events leading up to the McDonald shooting, and to thereby bolster a false narrative which might offer justification for the shooting.” The report found that the officers would not have been able to hear McDonald from where they were standing.
The investigation found that former Chicago Police Department lieutenant Anthony Wojcik “improperly disposed” of handwritten notes from detectives who spoke to three civilians who witnessed the shooting. Before disposing of them, though, he “personally recreated the reports.”
The Chicago police union told the Chicago Sun Times:“The Fraternal Order of Police has articulated in several instances our strongly-held belief that the Inspector General’s office, particularly under Joe Ferguson, is often little more than a political witch hunt of our members, none more so than the manner by which his office generated criminal indictments of the three officers in connection with the Laquan McDonald shooting.”
Ferguson said that he thought transparency was necessary. “The public doesn’t trust government. And it’s not just Chicago government,” he said. “It’s government generally. So, the only way to really have confidence, at least in this generation of things, is to put the information out there.”