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Chicago unveils long-awaited investigation records into police shooting of Laquan McDonald

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A judge acquitted three Chicago cops after finding them not guilty of conspiring to cover up details in the shooting of Laquan McDonald in 2014.
USA TODAY

CHICAGO — Five years after a white Chicago cop killed black teen Laquan McDonald, Mayor Lori Lightfoot administration’s on Wednesday released thousands of pages of records detailing the city’s investigation into the shooting and why officers were accused of covering up details.

The October 2014 shooting was one in a series of deadly confrontations between law enforcement and black men and women that spurred a national conversation on policing and an incident that fractured the already tattered trust of police in the African-American community of the nation’s third-largest city.

Officer Jason Van Dyke, who shot McDonald 16 times, was found guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery in 2018 and sentenced to nearly seven years this past January. Three other officers were charged with covering up the shooting but were acquitted in January.

Inspector General Joseph Ferguson’s 2016 probe looked into whether other officers or department officials covered for Van Dyke in the wake of the shooting.

The documents Wednesday revealed that Ferguson recommended discipline for 16 officers.

Laquan McDonald shooting: 4 Chicago cops fired for covering up fatal shooting

Laquan McDonald coverup trial: Prosecutors say Chicago cops failed to obey the law

According to the documents, Van Dyke violated CPD rules and did not cooperate with the inspector general’s investigation, which recommended he be immediately discharged.

“Van Dyke’s false reports, false statements, and material omissions all served to exaggerate the threat McDonald posed,” the report said.

Although journalists had been demanding the release of the watchdog report for more than three years, City Council decided last month to make the documents available to the public.

For Lightfoot, the release of the documents marks the fulfillment of a major campaign promise.

“Today, we are taking another step in our efforts to bring greater transparency to city government and releasing the Inspector General reports related to the investigation of the killing of Laquan McDonald,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “This marks another important milestone in a new era of rebuilding the trust between our city government and the communities we serve.”

Watchdog report: Read it here

The Chicago Tribune had previously obtained some of the documents and reported on the probe’s findings, including that the probe recommended 11 officers be fired for their involvement in the case.

Information on those 11 officers, along with four other officers who failed to ensure their dashboard cameras were working properly the night of the shooting, was included in the documents.

New information arose Wednesday on former Lieutenant Anthony Wojcik, who resigned from the CPD in 2016. Wojcik, who was at the scene of the shooting, made false statements and destroyed evidence, the report said.

Wojcik made false statements and misleading characterizations in CPD reports he authored and approved, which served to exaggerate the threat McDonald posed. Additionally, Wojcik improperly disposed of three original general progress reports containing CPD detective’s handwritten notes of the statements three civilian witnesses made the night of the shooting. Prior to disposing of the original reports, which disposal he failed to document, Wojcik personally recreated the reports.

The Fraternal Order of Police, which represents law enforcement officers, has criticized the release of the watchdog report.

“We do not believe that Inspector General Joe Ferguson is a credible authority of who is telling the truth and who isn’t,” Kevin Graham, president of the Chicago lodge of the FOP, wrote to USA TODAY.

“A shining example of this conviction is the fact that the Inspector General’s office under Ferguson suffered a devastating blow when the criminal charges against three officers connected to the shooting – trumped up by Ferguson’s office in violation of the officers’ constitutional rights – were eviscerated in a trial under the rules of evidence.”

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