A judge has found three Chicago police officers not guilty of covering up details in the 2014 killing of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager.
Former Detective David March, former Officer Joseph Walsh, and Officer Thomas Gaffney had been accused of falsifying police reports to protect Officer Jason Van Dyke, who was found guilty in October of second-degree murder in McDonald’s death.
But Cook County Associate Judge Domenica Stephenson said in her ruling the state had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers engaged in a conspiracy to prevent a criminal investigation.
Stephenson’s ruling came more than a month after the officers’ five-day bench trial ended.
Each of the defendants had their own attorney. They said in their closing arguments the prosecutor’s case is “weak,” and that the prosecution had failed to meet the burden of proof and produce enough evidence to support allegations of a police conspiracy.
In her closing arguments last month, Special Prosecutor Patricia Brown Holmes said March, Walsh, and Gaffney gave the same accounts and details of the shooting in their reports, but that the details were contradicted by dashcam footage, according to CNN affiliate WLS.
“We are here because these officers and others tried to make the case against Van Dyke go away,” Brown Holmes said, per WLS. “Laquan McDonald was a human being. He deserved due process in the law and not to have police officers write false reports and shape a false narrative to justify his killing.”
Police had said McDonald, 17, lunged toward officers as he held a 4-inch knife. But dashcam video showed McDonald walking away from police with the knife. Other statements that said McDonald threatened Van Dyke with the knife were also lies, the indictment said.
Several police reports said three officers had been battered, which is false, according to the indictment.
Van Dyke was also found guilty last fall of 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm — one for each time he fired on 17-year-old McDonald.
He will be sentenced on Friday. He faces between four and 20 years in prison for the second-degree murder conviction and would be eligible for probation, according to prosecutors. The aggravated battery convictions carry a potential sentence of between six and 30 years with no probation.
By Dakin Andone, CNN