Chicago police officers charged for alleged cover-up in teen shooting

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 27, 2017 3:53 PM

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Three current or former officers from the Chicago Police Department were indicted on Tuesday on state felony charges for their roles in attempting to cover up the shooting death of a black teenager by a white officer, prosecutors said.

The indictments stem from a 2014 incident in which black teenager Laquan McDonald was shot to death by a white officer. A video of the shooting, released in 2015, sparked days of protests and thrust Chicago into a national debate over the use of excessive force by police against minorities.

Detective David March and officers Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney were each charged with conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice, Patricia Brown Holmes, the special prosecutor, said in a statement.

"The indictment makes clear that these defendants did more than merely obey an unofficial 'code of silence,' rather it alleges that they lied about what occurred to prevent independent criminal investigators from learning the truth," Holmes said in a statement.

A police union spokeswoman declined to comment. Both the Chicago Police Department and a lawyer for the McDonald family did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

March, 58, is a police veteran of more than 30 years. Walsh, 48, and Gaffney, 43, both have about 20 years in the department. All are expected to be arraigned on July 10, according to the prosecutor.

Chicago Police last month finalized stricter limits on when officers can use firearms and other force, the latest attempt to reform a department roiled by misconduct and criticism in the wake of McDonald's shooting.

Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago police officer accused of murder in McDonald’s death, was charged in March with 16 new counts of aggravated battery. Van Dyke pleaded not guilty to the 16 counts. He also pleaded not guilty to murder in 2015 and is awaiting trial.

(Reporting by Chris Kenning, Timothy Mclaughlin and Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago; Editing by Andrew Hay and Matthew Lewis)