(Reuters) – A Chicago police panel on Thursday fired four officers over the shooting death of a black teenager, Laquan McDonald, in 2014, a case that highlighted racial tension in the United States’ third-largest city.
The release of dashboard video of the shooting in November 2015 ignited many protests in the city, and calls for the resignation of then Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
The video had a key role in Thursday’s decision, as the images it revealed contradicted police reports, the nine-member city police panel found in a decision released online.
“Each respondent’s misconduct is incompatible with continued service as an officer and warrants a penalty of discharge from the Chicago Police Department,” the Police Board of the City of Chicago said in its 55-page decision.
The panel fired the officers for violating the police code of conduct in the alleged cover-up of the death of McDonald, 17, who was carrying a knife, but walking away from officers when he was shot 16 times by police.
Lawyers for the fired officers, Sgt. Stephen Franko, Janet Mondragon, Daphne Sebastian and Ricardo Viramontes, were not immediately available to comment to Reuters early on Friday.
None of the panel members were immediately available for comment.
The panel found that Mondragon, Sebastian and Viramontes, who were all at the scene, lied or exaggerated about what happened to protect fellow officers.
While Franko was not at the scene, he signed off on the false police reports, the panel found.
A fifth person in the case, former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, was jailed for nearly seven years after being convicted of second-degree murder in October 2018.
Van Dyke, who is white, was the first on-duty Chicago police officer to be convicted for the killing of a black person.
He originally faced 20 years in prison for second-degree murder and up to 30 years for each of 16 counts of aggravated battery – one count for each shot he fired at McDonald, who was carrying a knife.
The panel said Van Dyke’s partner, Officer Joseph Walsh, was among others, including Deputy Chief David McNaughton, Chief of Detectives Eugene Roy and Detective David March, who resigned during an investigation into the incident.
Patrick Murray, the first vice president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, decried the panel’s decision, saying the four officers did nothing wrong.
“It’s obvious that this police board has outserved its usefulness,” he told the Chicago Tribune newspaper.
Reporting by Rich McKay; Editing by Clarence Fernandez