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Disciplinary cases moving forward against 4 cops at scene of McDonald shooting

Still frame from video of Oct. 20, 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald

In this Oct. 20, 2014 frame from dashcam video provided by the Chicago Police Department, Laquan McDonald (right), walks down the street moments before being fatally shot by CPD officer Jason Van Dyke sixteen times in Chicago. | Chicago Police Department via AP File

Four Chicago Police officers who were accused by the Chicago Police Department of lying about the 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald will have their first hearing before the Chicago Police Board next month.

The department filed charges against Sgt. Stephen Franko and officers Janet Mondragon, Daphne Sebastian and Ricardo Viramontes in August 2016. It was alleged that all four lied about the Oct. 20, 2014 shooting of McDonald in the 4100 block of South Pulaski Road, and the CPD recommended all four be fired.

Franko, Mondragon and Sebastian are also charged with failing to make sure the audio was working on their in-car video cameras. Only two of the five police vehicles at the shooting captured video, and none had audio.

Each are scheduled to appear at a status hearing Dec. 17. None of the four were criminally charged.

In June 2017, the Police Board entered an order to stay the disciplinary proceedings against the four until the conclusion of Officer Jason Van Dyke’s criminal trial. Van Dyke was found guilty of second-degree murder in McDonald’s death last month.

Less than a week after the Van Dyke verdict, CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson filed a motion with the Police Board asking the stay be lifted.

A few days later, a representative for Patricia Brown Holmes — the special prosecutor in the ongoing criminal case against three current and former CPD officers accused of covering up the shooting — said Holmes would have no objection to lifting the stay.

“Based on a verdict being rendered in the criminal trial of Jason Van Dyke and on the parties’ positions on the superintendent’s motion, as set out above, the Police Board finds that going forward with the Police Board cases will no longer prejudice or jeopardize any criminal case or constitutional right,” a Police Board memo released Thursday read.

The announcement that disciplinary measures against the four officers were moving forward comes as three other current and former officers face trial for an alleged cover-up of the McDonald shooting.

Holmes, a former federal prosecutor and Cook County judge, leads a team of private attorneys who in 2017 filed charges of obstruction of justice and criminal conspiracy against three officers: Thomas Gaffney, one of the first officers to encounter McDonald the night of the shooting; Joseph Walsh, who stood just a few feet away from Van Dyke as he opened fire on the 17-year-old; and David March, the homicide detective who led the investigation of the shooting for the CPD.

The indictment alleges the three men filed false reports that said McDonald assaulted Gaffney, Walsh and Van Dyke and which portrayed the 17-year-old McDonald as moving aggressively at the officers before he was shot — an account that contradicts dashboard-camera video of the shooting.