4 Chicago officers fired over ‘cover up' in Laquan McDonald shooting

Teen shot in October 2014

By Pierre Meilhan, CNN
CNN

Laquan McDonald

Four Chicago police officers have been fired for covering up the 2014 fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager, the Chicago Police Board said Thursday.

The board said it ordered Sgt. Stephen Franko, Officer Janet Mondragon, Officer Daphne Sebastian and Officer Ricardo Viramontes to be "discharged from the Chicago Police Department."

In its ruling, the board concluded the officers violated their "duty by describing the alleged threat posed by Mr. McDonald in an exaggerated way, while omitting relevant facts that support the opposite conclusion. The overall impression based on this selective telling is both misleading and false."

"Indeed, taken on their face, the officers' accounts depict a scene in which Mr. McDonald was the aggressor and Officer Van Dyke the victim—a depiction squarely contradicted by reality. Put simply, the officers wanted to help their fellow officer (Jason Van Dyke) and so described the incident in a way to put him in the best possible light," the board wrote.

The board is an independent civilian body that decides police disciplinary cases. A spokesman for the police union, did immediately return a telephone call and an email from CNN seeking comment.

Police initially said McDonald lunged toward officers with a knife, prompting Van Dyke to open fire six seconds after getting out of his squad car. He shot McDonald 16 times in October 2014.

Thirteen months later, a judge ordered the release of the grainy dashboard police camera footage of the shooting, and the fallout was immediate. The footage showed McDonald walking away from officers, rather than charging at them.

Video of the shooting sparked protests, a Justice Department civil rights investigation, criticism of the city's mayor, and eventually, the ouster of the police superintendent. It also reignited the fervent nationwide conversation about police shootings.

The case had come to represent a referendum on Chicago police officers' so-called "code of silence," and their alleged willingness to protect each other.

Last year, Van Dyke was convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery. Van Dyke was sentenced in January to 81 months in prison.

In a separate case, a judge found three other Chicago police officers not guilty of covering up details of McDonald's killing. Former Detective David March, former Officer Joseph Walsh and Officer Thomas Gaffney had been accused of falsifying police reports to protect Van Dyke.

CNN's Darran Simon and Brad Parks contributed to this report.

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