CPD: Fire cops for lying in McDonald shooting, not checking audio

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Chicago Police Office Jason Van Dyke | Mug shot

The Chicago Police Department formally moved Tuesday to fire five Chicago Police officers in the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald — including Officer Jason Van Dyke, who fired at the knife-wielding teen 16 times — and four other officers who allegedly lied in their accounts of what happened.

The Chicago Police Board, which metes out discipline in cases of alleged officer misconduct, received administrative charges seeking the firings of Van Dyke, Sgt. Stephen Franko and Officers Daphne Sebastian, Janet Mondragon and Ricardo Viramontes.

Not only are the officers accused of lying about the 2014 shooting — most of them also are found at fault for failing to make sure the audio was working on their in-car video cameras. Only two of the five police vehicles on the scene of the shooting captured video, and none had audio.

The disciplinary action follows a harsh report on the McDonald case by the city’s inspector general, who recommended that police Supt. Eddie Johnson fire 10 officers.

Some of the officers who came under criticism in the inspector general’s report have resigned, including a deputy chief, David McNaughton, and another officer.

In addition, Van Dyke’s partner, Joseph Walsh, resigned this month. In May, a fourth police official named in the report, Lt. Anthony Wojcik, retired, sources said.

Johnson has announced he doesn’t intend to seek the firing of one of the officers that Inspector General Joseph Ferguson said should be terminated.

On Aug. 18, Johnson announced he would seek the firings. In a letter to rank-and-file officers, he said, “While I know that this type of action can come with many questions and varying opinions, please know that these decisions were not made lightly.”

The inspector general found McNaughton was at fault for determining that Van Dyke’s use of force was proper. In a report, McNaughton wrote that McDonald was approaching Van Dyke when he was shot and the officer was in fear for his life.

But a video from a police vehicle showed that McDonald, who was holding a knife, was walking parallel, but away, from the officers when he was shot 16 times by the Van Dyke on Oct. 20, 2014.

Van Dyke’s partner, Walsh, told investigators that McDonald continued to advance on them, ignoring commands to drop a knife in his hand. He swung the knife at the officers in an “aggressive manner” when he was 12 to 15 feet away, Walsh told investigators.

Van Dyke was charged with murder in November 2015, on the same day the city released the video to the public. The criminal charges stemmed from an investigation by the Cook County state’s attorney and FBI.

Sources say the inspector general will now turn his attention to what then-police Supt. Garry McCarthy and his executive staff knew and did after the shooting.

Those officials had reviewed the video of the shooting the day after it happened. McCarthy immediately stripped Van Dyke of his police powers, but Walsh and other officers whose accounts contradicted the video remained on the street until earlier this month when Johnson moved to fire them and stripped them of their police powers.

According to the administrative charges filed with the police board Thursday, Van Dyke is accused of giving false statements on the day of the shooting and over the next two days. His alleged lies included saying that McDonald ignored his shouted orders to drop his knife and continued to advance toward him, and that Van Dyke then backpedaled and fired his gun to stop the attack.

According to the charges before the police board, Van Dyke had violated department rules when he failed to record audio with his in-car video system. He also refused to respond to questions by the inspector general on April 7, 2016, the charges say.

Franko, who was Van Dyke’s sergeant that day, is accused of providing false information that backed up Van Dyke’s account. He’s also accused of failing to make sure the audio on the officers’ in-car cameras was working.

Sebastian and Mondragon face similar allegations. Viramontes is accused of lying in his account of what happened.

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