Three Chicago police officers were found not guilty Thursday of attempting to cover up the 2014 shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. Chicago officials and mayoral candidates were quick to respond to the ruling. You can read the statements made by below:
“We cannot allow this verdict to divide us. We must learn from this situation. It’s time to work together to repair the relationship between the police and the community it serves. We can only do this as a united city.”
"This ruling represents the ugliest corners of our legal system. We took one step forward with the verdict for Jason Van Dyke, but one step backward with this verdict today.
It’s heartbreaking, yet unsurprising, to see that fabricated reports and tampered evidence were not enough to convict. Our criminal justice system perpetuates a culture of corruption that has cost the city billions of dollars and untold harm to families of color. They’re tired of being lied to and gaslit, even when there’s clear video evidence.
We need structural change. As mayor, I will deliver real community oversight and accountability within the police department. To improve safety, I will empower the people who community members trust the most -- themselves. This means investing in strong block clubs throughout our neighborhoods.
This will be another day where our community will be left to heal by ourselves -- but we stand together, strong and relentless, in our pursuit of justice."
“This not guilty verdict is a disappointment and a tragic reminder of the need for accountability and change,” said Lightfoot. “What those officers did was a disgrace. They should be ashamed of what they did to facilitate a false narrative about the murder of Laquan McDonald. But more than the actions of a few bad actors, their behavior is indicative of the continued need for substantial cultural change within the Chicago Police Department. This verdict does nothing to legitimize officers in the eyes of the public. As mayor, I will take on this challenge and work to build a Chicago Police Department that will be best in class in the nation.
“I call on Superintendent Johnson to move to terminate any of the three officers who remain on the job. The Police Board must move the pending disciplinary cases along as quickly as possible. I urge the U.S. Attorney’s Office to review the case for possible criminal charges.”
"The judge in this case has spoken. I respect the system and the verdict. From the very beginning I thought this was going to be a very difficult case for prosecutors to prove conspiracy."
"While today’s verdicts are disappointing and heartbreaking, they’re not surprising. This is something we’ve seen happen time and again throughout our country. It’s another tragic reminder of the broken culture within the police department and the work we have to do to fix it. To keep our neighborhoods safe, we must end the code of silence that for too long has allowed police officers to escape accountability, no matter the evidence at hand. To truly rebuild the trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve, we must make clear that nobody is above the law. While today’s verdict is a major setback, I am committed to working with every community throughout Chicago to move our city forward from Laquan McDonald’s senseless murder and build a true system of justice that works for all of our families."
Wilson called a press conference Thursday night, calling the decision "today’s disgraceful, unacceptable NOT GUILTY ruling in the case of officer Thomas Gaffney, former officer Joseph Walsh, and former detective David March in the cover-up of fellow former officer-now-convicted murderer Jason Van Dyke who gunned down 17-year-old Laquan McDonald with 16 shots in October 2014."
“The acquittal of these three Chicago police officers is a disappointing decision for its failure to uphold justice for Laquan McDonald. The verdict also furthers the distrust that already exists between our police and our community. Chicago must comply with the Justice Department's Consent Decree. Chicago cannot become the city we want it to be without the assurance that all Chicagoans are treated fairly and equally. We have a great deal of work to do, and today’s decision only increases my desire to keep working to make our city more just, equitable and safe.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Supt. Eddie Johnson
“While the court process in this case is over, our work to ensure the systemic reform underway at the Chicago Police Department continues. CPD is on the road to reform with no off-ramps. Unlike past reforms, these will stand the test of time. We have entered into an enforceable consent decree with the Illinois Attorney General, equipped all patrol officers with body worn cameras, revised use of force policies, adopted the recommendations of the Community Policing Advisory Panel, and ensured every officer has the best training throughout their careers. We will continue to take concrete steps to restore trust with communities across Chicago, because trust is the best public safety tool we have."
ACLU of Illinois
“Today’s acquittals are a painful reminder of the complete lack of structural accountability for police officers in Chicago. The judge’s findings will allow these three officers to escape criminal consequences for their part in covering up the murder of Laquan McDonald. The court’s decision does nothing to exonerate a police department so rotten that a teenager can be murdered—on video—by one of its officers and no one in the chain-in-command lifted a finger to do anything about it.
Until we change the structures that govern Chicago police officers, they will feel they have nothing to lose by lying and everything to lose if they tell the truth. The City of Chicago must follow through with the reforms laid out in the proposed consent decree to make real and lasting systemic changes and end the culture of cover-up within the Chicago Police Department. The ACLU of Illinois is committed to working with our clients and partners to ensure the ‘code of silence’ stops shielding officers from accountability.”
Chicago Urban League Interim President and CEO Barbara Lumpkin
"Accountability for police conduct is not just the responsibility of any one officer. It must be rooted into our systems and processes to be truly transformative for our city. This trial presented an opportunity to impose some accountability for police officers who maintain the code of silence that has enabled inequitable policing in Chicago. It is disappointing and disheartening to know that, even with an apparent conflict between officer statements and video proof, that opportunity was missed with this verdict. The Chicago Urban League will continue to support efforts at real police reform and equitable and fair treatment of African Americans and other underserved communities."