A Cook County judge on Friday ruled that a special prosecutor will be appointed to look into whether additional Chicago Police officers covered up the circumstances that led to the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
Judge Vincent Gaughan transferred the matter to Chief Criminal Court Judge LeRoy Martin Jr., who will be in charge of selecting the independent special prosecutor.
Civil rights attorneys Locke Bowman and G. Flint Taylor, who filed one of the petitions seeking the special prosecutors, said they were pleased that Gaughan signed the order to investigate other law enforcement personnel.
“If the Chicago Police department had had its way, if no videotape had surfaced of how that shooting had happened, the false account in the police department’s official records would have become the “truth” about how Laquan McDonald met his death. That injustice is so momentous and so horrifically appalling,” Bowman said.
Bowman called Gaughan’s ruling “a happy day for justice in the city of Chicago.”
No other officer other than Jason Van Dyke — the cop who pulled the trigger— has been charged in connection to the 2014 slaying.
Gaughan said last month he would be selecting a special prosecutor to handle Van Dyke’s murder case after State’s Attorney Anita Alavrez changed her previous stance and recused herself.
Gaughan inherited the two petitions seeking the special prosecutor by the lawyers and the Rev. Jesse Jackson after Martin passed it on to him in March.
Bowman and Taylor said it was possible that one special prosecutor could end up dealing with 38-year-old Van Dyke and the additional officers who they say should be charged with official misconduct and obstruction of justice.
Van Dyke’s partner, Joseph Walsh, and Detective David March, whose account of McDonald’s shooting conflicted with the graphic dashcam video, were placed on “administrative status” in mid-December.
Several other officers who were the scene also backed Van Dyke’s version of events — that he fired at McDonald because he was in his fear for life as the teenager waved a knife and came toward the officers.
One officer said she was looking down as she put her patrol car in park and apparently did not look up again in time to witness the hail of bullets.
McDonald was moving away from police in the 4100 block of South Pulaski Street and was 10 feet away from Van Dyke when he was shot 16 times, prosecutors said.
“We know Chicago Police officers at the scene at the time of the McDonald shooting orchestrated a designed cover-up of how Laquan McDonald met his death,” Bowman said.
The head of Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police did not want to comment on Gaughan’s ruling Friday.
“We don’t want to participate in something that’s ongoing right now,” Dean Angelo told the Sun-Times.
Earlier this week, Angelo told a crowd at the City Club of Chicago that many officers feel demoralized and complained of cellphone-gripping citizens who “bait” officers in hopes of getting them to react.
“I can’t wait for the city to release unedited video of our body cameras so you get to see what [police officers] see,” he said.