Chicago Police Board Fires 4 Officers Accused of Covering Up Laquan McDonald's Murder

Photo: AP Photo

An independent civilian board voted Thursday night to fire four Chicago police officers for their involvement in covering up the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

The Chicago Police Board ordered Officers Janet Mondragon, Daphne Sebastian, Ricardo Viramontes, and Sgt. Stephen Franko to be discharged from the Chicago Police Department for making false statements about the fatal 2014 shooting, CNN reports.

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“As sworn officers, each understood the importance of their statements to that investigation and understood that their statements must be truthful and complete,” the board wrote in its ruling. “Each of the three officers failed in their duty—either by outright lying or by shading the truth.”

“Indeed, taken on their face, the officers’ accounts depict a scene in which Mr. McDonald was the aggressor and Officer [Jason] Van Dyke the victim—a depiction squarely contradicted by reality. Put simply, the officers wanted to help their fellow officer (Jason Van Dyke) and so described the incident in a way to put him in the best possible light,” the board added.

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Former Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke was convicted of second-degree murder last year for firing 16 rounds at McDonald over the course of 15 seconds. The murder—in particular, dashcam video of the killing, which was released more than a year after McDonald died—roiled the city of Chicago, with residents accusing Chicago police and then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel of covering up the crime.

Part of the alleged coverup included statements from Officers Mondragon, Sebastian, and Viramontes that directly contradicted dashboard footage of McDonald’s killing.

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Here’s a brief summary of some of those false statements, from the Chicago Tribune:

Soon after the shooting, Mondragon told a detective that she didn’t see which officer opened fire on McDonald because she was putting her squad car in park. About a year and a half later, she stood by her account with Ferguson’s investigators, who scoffed at her claim, noting that Van Dyke took about 14 seconds to unload his 16-shot gun.

Sebastian, Mondragon’s partner that night, told the detective that McDonald continued to move after he was shot and fell to the street. In recommending the department charges against Sebastian, Ferguson’s investigators said the dashboard camera video—taken from her police SUV—showed that claim was misleading “at best.”

Viramontes also told the detective that McDonald continued to move after he was shot and fell to the street. The officer went even further, saying the teen tried to get up with the knife still in his hand. When Ferguson’s investigators showed him video of the shooting, Viramontes stood by his statements.

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As the Tribune writes, the Chicago Review Board’s decision “likely marks the final punishment to be meted out following two historic criminal trials that saw Van Dyke become the first Chicago police officer in half a century to be convicted of an on-duty murder and a judge clear three other officers—including Van Dyke’s partner—of criminal conspiracy charges in a controversial ruling in January.”

The paper also notes that a separate disciplinary inquiry by Inspector General Joseph Ferguson’s office recommended 11 total officers be fired for their involvement in McDonald’s murder. Van Dyke was among them, as were 6 officers who have left the department voluntarily.

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A Chicago Police Department spokesperson told ABC News that the department “is bound by the decision of the board,” which is tasked with making rulings on officer disciplinary cases. The firing of the four officers was effective immediately.

They can appeal the board’s decision by filing lawsuits in Cook County Circuit court.

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Unsurprisingly, the Fraternal Order of Police, Chicago’s police union, blasted the decision. According to ABC News, Martin Preib, second vice president of the FOP, lauded the officers’ “courage, integrity, and adherence to the rule of law” while drumming up fear of violent retribution.

The Chicago Police Board’s decision will “no doubt lead to more violence in the city and quite likely more violence against the police,” he said.

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About the author

Anne Branigin

Staff writer, The Root. Sometimes I blog slow, sometimes I blog quick. Do you have this in coconut?