Officers acquitted in McDonald case

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Alek S | Activists show support for the family of murdered teenager Laquan McDonald after the acquittals of former Chicago Detective David March, ex-patrolman Joseph Walsh and Officer Thomas Gaffney of the Chicago Police Department for conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice.

Former Chicago Detective David March, ex-patrolman Joseph Walsh and Officer Thomas Gaffney of the Chicago Police Department were acquitted of conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice in the Laquan McDonald case, a verdict that left supporters of McDonald stunned.

Video footage showed Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shooting 17 year-old McDonald 16 times, with 10 of these shots entering his body from the side and behind. Initially, witnessing officers stated that McDonald lunged at Van Dyke with a knife in hand, leaving the officer to defend himself with lethal force.

The official police report  stated that the footage provided by dashcams of surrounding patrol vehicles confirmed the accounts made by witnesses.

 The prosecution argued that those being charged lied to protect their colleague, failed to preserve evidence and dismissed outside sources coming forth with additional information in order to develop a narrative that justified the murder of McDonald.

A Freedom of Information request that was made by journalist Brandon Smith as well as by other local and national media outlets to confirm the events, but all requests were denied by police on the grounds of an ongoing investigation.

It wasn’t until Smith filed a lawsuit that the footage of the incident was released, resulting in March, Walsh and Gaffney being charged a year and a half later for their involvement.

Associate Judge Domenica Stephenson disagreed and acquitted the accused because of lack of evidence against them. Stephenson justified her decision in saying, “Two people with two different vantage points can witness the same event and still describe it differently.”

Van Dyke was convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery back in October. He was sentenced to six years and nine months in prison on Jan. 18.

Due to this case’s significant impact on the Chicago community, the results of these trials lead to growing tensions between officials and citizens.

“It was all over the papers for weeks,” sophomore and Chicago native CJ Karwowski said of the influence of the crime. 

When questioned on what the future holds for the relationship between the Chicago Police Department and its citizens, Karwowski said he does not foresee an easy recovery from this case. 

“I feel like there’s a level of trust that needs to be present between citizens and police,” he stated. “I would imagine it’s harder for citizens to trust the police after this.”

By: Alana Harvey | Staff Writer