State's Star Witness in Van Dyke Cover-Up Trial Says Official Reports Don't Reflect What She Saw

Taking the stand in the conspiracy trial of three officers stemming from the 2014 shooting of teenager LaQuan McDonald, police officer Dora Fontaine testified she never saw McDonald raise his knife above his shoulder, never saw him attack anyone, never even saw him make aggressive moves the night he was shot.

The official report carrying her name from that night suggested otherwise, listing three police officers as victims, and the shooter, officer Jason Van Dyke as having been injured by McDonald.

Fontaine said those details came from Detective David March, who is on trial along with Walsh and Gaffney, accused of conspiring to draw up false reports of the incident to exaggerate the threat McDonald posed.

On withering cross examination, March’s attorney James McKay suggested Fontaine had told different versions of her story to the FBI, the city’s Inspector General, and the Grand Jury.

McKay then reminded Fontaine that the city’s own general orders required her to correct any false reports, which she admitted she had never done.

“So you violate that general order, didn’t you?” McKay asked. “So you should be fired!”

Earlier in the day, the judge heard testimony from the first police officer to confront McDonald that night.

Officer Joseph McElligott was with his partner Thomas Gaffney, when the initial radio call came in of citizens complaining about a youth stealing radios from a southwest side truck yard. Confronting McDonald on the street, McElligott said he demanded the teenager show his hands.

“When he took his hands out of his pockets, he had a knife in his right hand,” the officer said. He went on to describe an incident where McDonald plunged the knife into the tire of his squad car, and again into the windshield.

But through it all, he said he never considered McDonald a lethal threat.

“He used force,” the officer said, “but it was on our car.”

McElligott had his back turned during the actual shooting. The officer conceded that McDonald’s actions would qualify him as an “armed assailant”. And he said that no one ever tried to get him to modify his story to make the shooting appear justified.

Earlier, Chicago Police Academy instructor Larry Gaffney took the stand to explain the department’s use-of-force model. The sergeant said based on the infamous dashcam video of the shooting, he would classify McDonald as an “armed active resister”, which he said might have justified use of a taser, but not lethal force.

“The only thing that you see is the subject walking,” he said. “Walking away from the officers.”

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