While Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke waits to learn how long he will spend in prison for killing Laquan McDonald, the city is waiting for other verdicts, the New York Times reports. Outrage over McDonald’s death was never just about the 16 bullets Van Dyke fired into him that night. The protests, political upheaval and promises of reform were also motivated by a yearlong effort to keep a video of the shooting out of public view and by what many saw as a cover-up. Three other officers — David March, Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney — never fired a shot the night of McDonald’s death, but they were charged with lying about the shooting and conspiring to keep Van Dyke out of trouble. Their cases are seen as a rare and crucial test of a code of silence that is often said to fester in police departments.
“This has been the routine of the Chicago Police Department,” said William Calloway, an activist who pressed for the release of the McDonald video in 2015 as officials resisted. “We have to make an example of these officers.” On Oct. 20, 2014, Gaffney and other officers trailed the teenager for blocks. Those officers followed McDonald from a distance, even as he popped the tire of a police cruiser with a three-inch pocketknife and slashed at the vehicle’s windshield. Laquan was walking away when Van Dyke arrived and started shooting. Almost immediately after the gunfire stopped, prosecutors say, a cover-up began. “As part of the conspiracy,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing, officers “failed to report or correct false information in official police reports” and “concealed the true facts of the events surrounding the killing of Laquan McDonald.” In 2014, McDonald’s death attracted little attention, even as police shootings in Ferguson, Mo., and Milwaukee led to large protests.