This article is a follow-up to a story we originally covered last year. The original story discussed a dashcam video of the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald, an African-American, on October 20, 2014. The video, released the following year, showed the officer, Jason Van Dyke, shooting the victim 16 times as the victim was walking away from police officers. The case revolved around the lack of justification for the shooting with the officer claiming the victim had lunged at him with a knife and the prosecution claiming that there was no factual or legal basis for the shooting.
Officer Van Dyke was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to more than six years in prison. Three officers were acquitted of covering up the shooting. The city settled the civil claim of the McDonald family for $5 million in 2015.
A new Chicago OIG report
The Chicago Sun Times published a piece on October 9, 2019, saying that Chicago’s Office of Inspector General released a large volume or records, reports and exhibits related to the shooting. The release, according to OIG Ferguson, supports the disciplining of 16 officers involved in “covering for former CPD Officer Jason Van Dyke.” The reports further detailed the shooting and its aftermath. The OIG findings showed that:
- The current Chicago Police Department (CPD) Superintendent, Eddie Johnson, did see the video before it was released to the public and “believed the shooting to be justified.”
- Van Dyke “repeatedly submitted false reports, made false statements and disobeyed orders from supervisors while the office was conducting its investigation.” This conduct exaggerated the threat that the victim posted to the officer by creating the false impression that “a back-pedaling Van Dyke shot an onrushing McDonald in response to McDonald’s potentially deadly knife attack.”
- Van Dyke refused to answer OIG questions – even though his superior order him to answer the questions.
Van Dyke’s attorney, Dan Herbert, asserted that, “Jason Van Dyke was taking the fall to protect the politicians and police command staff who determined the shooting was justified before realizing there would be a huge public outcry.”
The OIG report also discussed the involvement of Anthony Wojcik, the lieutenant at the shooting scene who has subsequently retired. The report focused on the lieutenant’s handling of the reports made by detectives on the night the shooting took place – which involved the statements of civilian eyewitnesses. Wojcik reportedly said that the original reports “were destroyed when he spilled coffee on them” but that he’d been able to “recreate” the reports and he’d “disposed of the originals.”
The OIG did not interview Wojik because he first claimed he didn’t have to respond to a subpoena because he was retired and then because he asserted his Fifth Amendment rights.
Several officers were fired for “allegedly lying to cover up the shooting.” They’ve filed lawsuits contesting the firings.
According to the OIG report, “Among the lost interview reports were those of Det. Beth Svec, who talked witnesses who were largely mortified by Van Dyke’s actions,” including one witness who described the shooting as an “execution.”
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