The four Chicago police officers accused of covering up evidence connected to the shooting death of Laquan McDonald have now been fired after a protracted legal battle.
On Thursday a city panel voted unanimously to terminate four police officers five years after 17-year-old McDonald was fatally wounded in 2014 by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke who fired his weapon at him 16 times. Sgt. Stephen Franko, 48, and officers Janet Mondragon, 42, Daphne Sebastian, 50, and Ricardo Viramontes, 46, who were present during the shooting, were accused of covering for Van Dyke in their police reports, which portrayed McDonald as the aggressor. In one of the police reports, it was claimed that McDonald injured Van Dyke, which was proven to be untrue.
In a criminal trial earlier this year, the four officers were acquitted of the coverup, having been charged with charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and official misconduct.
According to local public radio station WBEZ, in the 55-pages of findings, the Police Board condemned Franko, Mondragon, Sebastian and Viramontes for “describing the alleged threat posed by Mr. McDonald in an exaggerated way while omitting relevant facts that support the opposite conclusion.” The also found that the four “depict a scene in which Mr. McDonald was the aggressor and Van Dyke the victim, a depiction squarely contradicted by reality,” essentially painting Van Dyke is the best light.
Van Dyke was convicted of second degree murder in McDonald’s death in October 2018 and was sentenced to 81 months in prison.
The Board went on to further condemn Franko, who was the supervisor, for “failing to supervise his officers” on the scene and for signing off on the false reports after seeing the disturbing dashcam video.
WBEZ also reported that following the ruling, the Fraternal Order of Police vice president, Patrick Murray denounced the ruling as the Board falling to the whim of the media.
“Your job is not to fall to the pressure of the media or the radical police haters but is rather to give each officer a fair hearing,” Murray told the board members after they opened the floor for public comment. “It is obvious that this Police Board has outserved its usefulness. The FOP has made it our top priority that this board be dissolved. We do not have to agree to participate in this type of process as labor law allows us to proceed by way of arbitration.”
Residents of Chicago’s west side where McDonald was raised, sang a tune of cautious optimism.
“This is not exactly how we wanted this to end,” Rev. Ira Acree of Greater St. John Bible Church said. “These guys should be headed to prison for collaborating to cover up a murder. But, in a flawed judicial system and in a city where the police department has been accused of systemic racism for several years, this is a small victory.”