CHICAGO — Three officers who have been indicted in the Laquan McDonald case are being treated like "scapegoats," the police union boss said.
The Fraternal Order of Police has vowed to "vigorously support" the officers, who on Tuesday were indicted on charges of conspiracy, obstruction and misconduct. Kevin Graham, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, fired back Wednesday that the officers should not have been indicted.
Special prosecutor Patricia Brown Holmes said the three had lied, failed to interview witnesses and misled other investigators to hide what happened the October 2014 night McDonald, 17, was shot 16 times and killed by Officer Jason Van Dyke.
“These charges are, in our minds, baseless. Our officers are being made the scapegoats,” Graham said in the union's statement. “The decision on whether to release the video of the incident had nothing to do with these officers.
"How the special prosecutor can construe a 'code of silence' theory defies belief. How can officers be indicted based upon which witnesses they spoke to and which ones they didn’t?” said Graham.
Chicago police detective David March and patrol officers Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney face felony charges for their roles in an alleged cover-up surrounding the murder case. Each faces multiple years in prison if convicted of the charges. None was arrested, but all three will have to appear at an arraignment July 10 at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, 2650 S. California Ave.
March, 58, was a Chicago Police officer for more than 30 years, according to Holmes. Walsh, 48, and Gaffney, 43, both worked in the department about 20 years.
According the Chicago Police Department, only Gaffney is currently employed as an officer. He will be suspended without pay until his felony case is resolved.
The grand jury investigation, which began last year, continues, Holmes said, and more officers could face felony charges.
According to the indictment, March, Walsh, Gaffney and an unnamed fourth person identified as "Individual A" conspired immediately after the Oct. 20, 2014, shooting to "conceal the true facts of the events surrounding the killing of LaQuan [sic] McDonald ... to shield their fellow officer [identified only as Individual A] from criminal investigation and prosecution."
Obstruction alleged against the officers in the indictment includes "mischaracterizing the video recordings" of the incident and lying about the events leading up to the shooting, according to a release from Brown's office.
Cook County Judge LeRoy K. Martin Jr. ruled in September to convene a grand jury to hear evidence against the Chicago police officers on the scene with Van Dyke the night McDonald was killed.
Van Dyke, 39, is free on bond for charges of first-degree murder, aggravated battery and official misconduct. He appeared in court Wednesday.