A judge on Thursday acquitted three Chicago police officers of trying to cover up the 2014 police shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald in order to protect a fellow officer.
Cook County Associate Judge Domenica Stephenson ruled that officer Thomas Gaffney, former officer Joseph Walsh, and former detective David March did not break the law when they filed reports supporting the account of officer Jason Van Dyke, who was convicted for McDonald’s murder last year. The three went on trial last November and faced charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and official misconduct.
The judge said there was no evidence that officers tried to hide or bury the evidence. “The evidence shows just the opposite,” she said. She singled out how they had preserved the police dashcam video at the heart of the evidence that convicted Officer Jason Van Dyke, who shot McDonald 16 times.
Former Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said he respects the acquittal of three officers.
“I respect the system and the verdict,” McCarthy, who was superintendent at the time of the shooting, said. He added that he thought from the beginning that the conspiracy allegations against the officers would be hard to prove.
after the verdict, Marvin Hunter, McDonald’s great-uncle, argued that the ruling was “not justice.”
“To say that these men are not guilty is to say Jason Van Dyke is not guilty,” Hunter said.
Activists added that the verdict shows a deeper problem in the city’s justice system. “The blue code of silence is not just with the Chicago Police Department,” William Calloway, a Chicago activist and alderman candidate in Chicago’s 5th ward, told reporters. “It expands to the judicial system, and this is an example of that.”
Jason Van Dyke, the officer who fired at McDonald, was convicted by a jury in October of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery one for each shot that struck the teen. He is due to be sentenced on Friday by a different judge.