Four Chicago Police officers have been terminated from their positions for false or misleading statements that they provided following the 2014 shooting of teen Laquan McDonald.
The death of the Chicago teen resulted in national outrage and protests throughout the city. The heated conflict drew personalities such as Reverend Jesse Jackson who spoke out demanding justice.
Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke had encountered Laquan McDonald when the teen was suspected of breaking into vehicles in the city’s South Side NBC News’ Phil Helsel reports. The teen was also carrying a knife at the time.
When brought to trial, Van Dyke stated that he feared for his life causing him to shoot the teen. However, dash cam footage, which was released a year after the incident occurred, showed a different scenario.
McDonald was already retreating from the officer when he opened fire releasing 16 rounds. Additionally, Van Dyke continued to shoot the young man even after he was already on the ground, according to Helsel. Van Dyke is currently serving 6 years in prison for the conviction of 16 counts of aggravated battery and second-degree murder.
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Chicago Police Sergeant Stephen Franko, Officer Ricardo Viramontes, Officer Janet Mondragon and Officer Daphne Sebastian also responded to the scene the night of the death of McDonald.
All four have now been terminated from the department for statements that they provided which dash camera footage proved to be erroneous or misleading. Of the latter three, the board decided that “each of the three officers failed in their duty — either by outright lying or by shading the truth.”
Sergeant Franko was the ranking supervisor to respond and was responsible for approving reports made by the others. Franko had access to watch the dash cam footage nearly immediately following the incident.
However, Franko later admitted that he did not watch the footage claiming only to have seen excerpts. Franko then approved the officers’ reports which included significant inconsistencies with the video evidence. Helsel reports the Chicago Police Board’s findings stating:
“A fatal, officer-involved shooting had occurred, and perhaps the key piece of contemporaneous evidence as to what had happened was available to Sergeant Franko for hours.”
Former officer Sebastian provided a statement to a detective that McDonald not only refused commands to obey but was advancing on Van Dyke waving a knife. However, the board found the timing in which the events were described was misleading. According to Helsel, the board concluded:
“She did not, however, offer a precise statement as to the timing of these events, nor did she mention the critical fact that Mr. McDonald was walking away from the officers at the time he was shot.”
Janet Mondragon had attested that she did not actually witness the shooting as she claimed she was looking down in order to put her police vehicle into park. However, the dash camera footage revealed that her vehicle was actually moving through a significant time period of the shooting.
Ricardo Viramontes claimed in an official statement to detectives that the wounded McDonald had attempted to get up off the ground while still clutching the knife. The video proved that was entirely false, says Helsel.
The Fraternal Order of Police issued a statement opposing the board’s decision to terminate the four officers, according to NBC Chicago. Martin Preib, who is currently listed on the Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge 7 website as 2nd Vice President says:
“It will no doubt lead to more violence in the city and quite likely more violence against the police because officers understand by your ruling that an officer can be fired or indicted merely responding to a job.”
Cited violations by the officers include impede the department’s efforts to achieve its policy and goals as well as making a false report, written or oral, according to NBC Chicago. None are being charged with crimes.
However, FOP Order of Police Chicago Lodge 7 Patrick Murray says:
“These four people, unfortunately, are getting fired because of what other people did or didn’t do… These police officers did their job.”