A judge has acquitted three police officers in Chicago who lied on their reports of the killing of Laquan McDonald by Officer Jason Van Dyke (not the same one I’ve tangled with many times). They lied to protect Van Dyke, but a judge — not a jury — found them not guilty despite clear evidence and the testimony of another officer that they tried to get her to lie too.
Officer Thomas Gaffney, ex-Officer Joseph Walsh and former Detective David March were acquitted on charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and official misconduct by Cook County Judge Domenica Stephenson…
Even though the charged officers wrote reports that seemed to differ with the video — and differ in a strikingly similar manner — Stephenson said that’s not evidence of a criminal cover-up.
“Two people, with two different vantage points, can witness the same event, but describe it differently,” the judge said. “This does not necessarily mean that one of them is lying — rather it could be an indication that they are describing what they saw from their vantage point, with their own perceptions.”
Yeah. Except the lies told here were so blatant and coordinated that this excuse is absurd and the dashcam video clearly shows the nature of the lies.
Det. March was assigned to investigate the shooting and deemed it justified, claiming dashcam video supported Van Dyke’s version of events. Walsh was Van Dyke’s partner and Gaffney was also at the scene of McDonald’s killing that night.
Walsh told investigators that McDonald was walking toward Van Dyke and with his arms raised when he was shot, a version of evidence contradicted by the footage, prosecutors said. Gaffney signed off on allegedly false reports that said the officers were injured in their encounter with McDonald, prosecutors said.
The dashcam video clearly shows McDonald walking away, not toward Van Dyke. And none of the officers had any injuries. Those aren’t differences in vantage point, they’re just plain lies. And then there’s the testimony of another officer at the scene, who revealed what always goes on when cops coordinate their stories to protect one another:
Officer Dora Fontaine testified that she never saw McDonald threaten any officers at the scene — but that March instructed her to make up that allegation in a report.
“Other officers were calling me a rat, a snitch, a traitor, they wouldn’t back me up,” she testified. “If I was on a call-in and needed assistance, some officers felt strong enough to say that I didn’t deserve to be helped.”
If what is shown on the dashcam video is the opposite of what was put on the police report, the officer who filled out that report is lying. Period. This is why cops get away with this kind of thing, because they circle the wagons around one another, lie about what happened, and are excused by compliant judges. And it needs to stop.