There was a clear coverup in the Chicago Police Department after Jason Van Dyke shot Laquan McDonald in 2014. Not only did it take a year for the video to be released to the public, but officers on the scene agreed to claim that McDonald assaulted them, prompting the shooting. The only question remaining is how deep did the coverup attempt reach?
In an attempt to answer that question, three Chicago police officers have been charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice, according to NBC News.
Det. David March and officers Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney are being treated as the leaders of the conspiracy. March and Walsh have resigned from the force while Gaffney will be suspended without pay. These charges could come with a sentence of up to five years in prison.
“MCDONALD committed aggravated assault against the three officers, finally forcing Officer [Individual A], in defense of his life, to shoot and kill MCDONALD,” March wrote in one report, according to the indictment.
The indictment also accuses the officers of ignoring witnesses who challenged their account and tried to throw investigators off of the trail of the video footage.
Even Van Dyke’s attorney, Dan Herbert, believes that this is only the tip of the iceberg of conspiracy efforts.
“The officers are charged with conspiring to ensure that ‘the public would not see the video recordings of the event,'” Herbert said. “If true then the entire command staff of the police department, including the former and current superintendents, must be part of the conspiracy considering they were aware of the reports and video when they signed off on the shooting.”
Herbert’s comments speak to a rumored code of silence within the police department where officers have been known to do all they can to protect each other, even when they’ve committed wrongs. It is a symptom of an increasingly toxic system that’s been in place for decades.
“The indictment makes clear that these defendants did more than merely obey an unofficial ‘code of silence,'” the special prosecutor, Patricia Brown Holmes, said in a statement. “Rather, it alleges that they lied about what occurred to prevent independent criminal investigators from learning the truth.”
Van Dyke is still waiting to go to trial.