Protesters shout at police outside the annual Interfaith Breakfast honoring Martin Luther King Jr. to address efforts to restore people’s trust amid the city’s ongoing police shooting scandal, at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place hotel in Chicago, Friday, Jan. 15, 2016. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune)
CHICAGO (AP) — Nearly two dozen Chicago Police Department employees have been called to testify before a federal grand jury investigating the 2014 death of a black teenager shot 16 times by a white police officer, according to records released to the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times.
Among them are four officers whose initial accounts of the confrontation conflict with squad car video showing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald walking away from officers, rather than turning threateningly toward them. The names of the 23 subpoenaed officers appear on court notification logs released Friday in response to public records requests from the two newspapers. Being called before a grand jury does not necessarily indicate the person is suspected of wrongdoing.
The federal grand jury investigation is one of several related to the case. At the state level, Cook County prosecutors charged the officer who opened fire, Jason Van Dyke, with first-degree murder in November. He pleaded not guilty. His attorney says he acted properly and fired his weapon because he feared for his life. No other officer on the scene opened fire.
The U.S. Department of Justice also is conducting a civil rights investigation of the police department, which has come under intense scrutiny since the Nov. 24 release of the dashcam video of the McDonald shooting. It shows McDonald, who was carrying a small knife, walking swiftly away from officers.
Some officers on the scene said in initial accounts that he turned or lunged at them threateningly with the knife. The case has outraged protesters and community activists who accuse the police and the city of a cover-up. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has insisted he did not see the video until it was released to the public by a judge’s order over the objections of the city.
The logs show the officers began appearing before the grand jury in June and continued to appear as recently as late December.