The fate of four Chicago police officers who have been accused of covering up the events surrounding the 2014 fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald rests in the hands of the city’s police board which has begun hearings related to the matter. The body will determine if they will be fired.
The officers, Stephen Franko, Janet Mondragon, Daphne Sebastian and Ricardo Viramontes, are accused of lying about the events that took place the night McDonald, who was 17, was shot and killed by former officer Jason Van Dyke. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, none of these officers are facing criminal charges.
Administrative charges were filed with the board in August 2016 by the Chicago Police Department after discrepancies came to light regarding what officers reported the night of the shooting and what actually happened in the dashcam footage. The Sun-Times reported that the board had earlier decided they would hold off on the hearing until after the two criminal trials related to the shooting concluded.
During the hearings this week, Franko, who was not at the scene, approved the accounts of what happened that were made by Van Dyke and his partner, Walsh. The pair claimed McDonald was attacking them before he was shot.
Franko testified to having seen snippets of the video after the accounts were made and acknowledged not seeing McDonald use deadly force, yet when asked if he should have brought this up to his superiors, he said, “that is not my responsibility.”
Viramontes, who was there, acknowledged discrepancies in his statement as he initially claimed he did not know who told McDonald to drop the knife. He now says Van Dyke was the one who gave the order. He also admitted that McDonald was walking away from officers before the shooting and that when he did turn toward the officers, it could have been from being shot.
In her testimony, Mondragon claimed she did not see the shooting because she was looking down to put her cruiser into park, but in the video, her car can be seen still moving. According to the Sun-Times, the attorney for the Chicago Police Department, John Gibbons, accused Mondragon of lying pointing out, “Parked cars cannot move forward.”
“She was startled” William Fahy, Mondragon’s attorney said. “This was a startling event. She did put her head down. She did stop the car. She did put it in park.”
As the hearing proceeds, the four officers have been limited to desk duty. Prior to this hearing, Van Dyke was sentenced to six years and nine months for shooting McDonald.
In January, three other Chicago police officers, retired Det. David March, and former patrolman Joseph Walsh and Ofc. Thomas Gaffney were acquitted of criminal charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and official misconduct.