More than 20 Chicago Police Department personnel have been called before the federal grand jury investigating the fatal Laquan McDonald shooting, including the detective who initially closed the case as “non-criminal” and officers at the scene who gave accounts that conflicted with the dashcam video of the shooting, police records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show.
In, 23 department employees have been called before the grand jury since June 2015, the records show. In all, about 80 witnesses were called before the grand jury, the Sun-Times has reported.
The city’s release of a video showing Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting the teen 16 times — after fighting 13 months to withhold it — rocked the city with protests, led to the firing of former Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, and for calls for the resignation of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.
The video — which appeared to show the teen walking away from Van Dyke and other officers — was at odds with the accounts of the shooting given not just by Van Dyke, who has been charged with murder in the case, but by other officers who were on the scene.
“The United States Department of Justice is investigating the circumstances around Mr. McDonald’s death, and we eagerly await the results of that investigation,” the Chicago Police Department said in a statement accompanying release of the court notification log records.
“Should any officer or employee of this department be found guilty of lying or purposely misrepresenting any facts, they will face immediate discipline ranging from termination to prosecution,” the department said.
Among the officers who were called before the secret grand jury probing whether there were civil rights violations in the case are several officers who were on the shooting scene the night of Oct. 20, 2014, in the 4100 block of South Pulaski Road.
CPD notes that just because an individual is summoned to testify before the grand jury does not necessarily mean they are under investigation.
Officers who have been subpoenaed include Van Dyke’s partner, Joseph Walsh; the lead detective who ruled the shooting a justifiable homicide, Det. David March, and March’s supervisor, Det. Lt. Anthony Wojcik.
Several officers who gave accounts that backed up Van Dyke’s account of the shooting — that McDonald approached him, menacing him with a knife — were called to the grand jury, as were officers who said they were there but did not see the actual shooting for a variety of reasons.
A majority of the officers called to testify remain on active duty, Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Friday night.
Despite the large number of officers called, though, it’s unclear if their testimony provided great value to the prosecution of Van Dyke.
An FBI agent involved in the McDonald shooting investigation said in an email obtained by the Sun-Times that testimony from a ballistics expert and use-of-force expert, among others, “will carry the case.”
The agent, Vick Lombardo, does not mention any police officer testimony in the email that Lombardo sent to Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Golden on Nov. 24, the day Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez announced murder charges against Van Dyke.
In the email, Lombardo, who has handled many high-profile FBI investigations, criticizes the Independent Police Review Authority for not notifying authorities soon enough about the case.
“Had we known 10/20, & had started then, we never would have been put in this position today. I hope IPRA gets that & tells us from the get go next time,” reads the email.