BY STEVE SCHMADEKE
CHICAGO – A grand jury will be impaneled to investigate a possible cover-up by Chicago police in the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald at the request of a special prosecutor appointed in July to investigate the matter.
Patricia Brown Holmes, the special prosecutor, said Monday she has enough evidence to present to a grand jury as she made her request that one be convened.
Judge LeRoy Martin Jr., the presiding judge of Cook County’s criminal division who appointed Holmes, said he would convene a special grand jury to hear evidence.
Holmes, a former Cook County judge, later told reporters that a grand jury investigation is the fairest way to handle the case rather than make a charging decision on her own.
Did officers lie?
Martin named Holmes to look into whether the officers lied to justify the October 2014 shooting of the 17-year-old. Her investigation also could extend to police supervisors who were involved, said the lawyers who had asked the judge to appoint a special prosecutor.
The dashboard camera video of White Police Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting the Black teen 16 times has caused a firestorm of controversy and led to calls for major reforms and a U.S. Justice Department investigation of Chicago police practices. The accounts of several officers dramatically differed from the video.
Holmes, who is African-American, had been among four candidates proposed for the post by a coalition of about 25 community groups, prominent attorneys and a member of McDonald’s family who sought the appointment.
In February, the coalition filed a petition asking that a special prosecutor be appointed to investigate not only McDonald’s shooting but also the officers at the scene. State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez opposed a special prosecutor during her hard-fought re-election effort earlier this year, but after her primary loss, she withdrew her opposition.
Judge Vincent Gaughan, who is overseeing the criminal case against Van Dyke, appointed Kane County State’s Attorney Joseph McMahon as a separate special prosecutor to handle Van Dyke’s prosecution.
The video showed Van Dyke opening fire within seconds of exiting his police SUV as McDonald walked away from police with a knife in his hand, contradicting many of the officers’ written accounts that the teen had lunged with the knife.
Federal prosecutors also have been looking into possible charges against those officers for many months.
Citing sources, the Chicago Tribune has reported that the federal inquiry has branched into possible obstruction of justice by the officers at the scene. In addition, the city inspector general’s office, which has the power to investigate and make recommendations on employee matters and policies, is looking into the matter.
For the better part of a year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel fought the release of the dash-cam video of the shooting. A judge ordered Emanuel to release the video in November 2015, more than a year after the shooting occurred.
Van Dyke was charged with murder hours before the video was made public, leading some to accuse Emanuel of being complicit in a cover-up and fueling weeks of protests.