CHICAGO — Three Chicago police officers were acquitted Thursday of charges they had conspired and lied to protect a white police officer who fired 16 deadly shots into a black teenager, a contentious verdict in a case over what many viewed as a “code of silence” in the Police Department.
The judgment was delivered by a judge and not a jury. Associate Judge Domenica Stephenson rejected the prosecutors’ arguments the officers had shooed away witnesses and then created a narrative to justify the 2014 shooting, which prompted citywide protests, the firing of the police chief and a wide-ranging federal investigation into the police force.
The ruling occurred more than three months after Officer Jason Van Dyke was convicted in October of the second-degree murder of Laquan McDonald, and on the afternoon before he was scheduled to be sentenced for a killing that was captured on an infamous police dashboard camera video.
The three police officers — David March, Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney — contradicted what the video showed. In it, Van Dyke fires repeatedly at McDonald, who is wielding a knife, as he moves slightly away from the officers and even as he lies crumpled on the ground. Prosecutors cited that footage repeatedly as they built a case against the officers, who are white, on charges of conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice.