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Chicago police superintendent calls for firing officer who shot and killed Laquan McDonald

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson (Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times Media via Associated Press)

The Chicago police superintendent on Tuesday recommended firing five police officers, including the officer who shot and killed Laquan McDonald, the black teenager whose death in 2014 continues to reverberate through the country’s second-biggest local police force.

The move comes not long after Chicago police officials said they would recommend firing officers for lying about McDonald’s death, agreeing with an inspector general’s recommendations that they be dismissed. These officers had been relieved of policing powers this month after being accused of delivering false reports, according to the department.

While the inspector general also called for firing another officer involved, the police department disagreed. And in a remarkable development in a case that has had a continuing impact on the city’s police force, authorities now say they are also investigating whether official police reports included untrue statements falsely attributed to that officer.

After saying earlier this month the police force would call for officers to be fired, the head of the department offered more details on Tuesday. Superintendent Eddie Johnson filed an eight-page document with the Chicago Police Board calling for that agency to dismiss Jason Van Dyke, the officer who shot McDonald, charging him with violating a half-dozen departmental rules in the aftermath of the episode.

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Johnson wrote that Van Dyke had, at various points, refused to answer questions, made false statements regarding the shooting and lied to the independent agency investigating the incident. In one case, Johnson said, Van Dyke made false statements suggesting that the teenager was attacking him with the knife he was carrying.

The city’s top police officer also outlined why he was calling for four other officers whom he accused of lying to be dismissed nearly two years after the shooting, which prompted a federal investigation of the Chicago police and a series of reforms for the department. While the Chicago inspector general had recommended firing 10 officers for lying about the episode, three of them had retired and another resigned Tuesday, said Anthony Guglielmi, the department’s chief spokesman.

Footage of the McDonald shooting came out in November 2015, more than a year after the incident occurred. The same day the video of Van Dyke firing 16 rounds at the teenager was made public, the officer was charged with murder. He has pleaded not guilty.

On Oct. 20, 2014, Officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald sixteen times. Police video of the shooting was made public on Nov. 24. Here's what we know about the shooting and the video that was made public a year later. (Video: Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)

The president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police did not respond to a request for comment, and an attorney for Van Dyke could not be immediately reached.

Video of the shooting came out at a moment of intense national focus on how police use force, and it sparked an avalanche of changes at the department. The Justice Department began a “pattern-or-practice” investigation of the Chicago police aimed at determining whether officers violated the Constitution or federal law. These probes often result in court-enforced orders mandating changes at departments.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) forced out the city’s police superintendent and formed a task force to review the department. The task force released a report earlier this year decrying the Chicago police’s racial history and saying that there was no real system of accountability for officers.

Even as the embattled police force has made reforms, and city officials have reversed long-standing opposition to releasing videos and reports from investigations into police shootings, Chicago and its police are reeling from a staggering increase in gun violence and bloodshed.

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Also on Tuesday, Johnson named four other officers he was asking the police board to fire: Sgt. Stephen Franko and Officers Janet Mondragon, Daphne Sebastian and Ricardo Viramontes. In each case, Johnson, a veteran of the force who assumed command this year, accused them of lying about the shooting on police reports.

The Chicago force “is committed to ensuring the highest levels of integrity, accountability and professional standards for all members of the Police Department,” Guglielmi, the department’s chief spokesman, said in a statement.

Guglielmi also provided new details about another officer whom the city’s inspector general recommended firing because of the McDonald shooting. In that case, the police department disagreed, although officials did not immediately say why after receiving the inspector general’s reports and agreeing to seek the dismissals of the other officers. (The inspector general’s report has not been made public.)

In one police report released after Van Dyke was charged, an officer named Dora Fontaine is quoted as saying that McDonald raised his arm toward Van Dyke as if to attack him, according to the Chicago Tribune.

However, Guglielmi said Tuesday that evidence from the inspector general’s investigation created “sufficient doubt that Officer Fontaine made certain statements that have been attributed to her in official CPD reports and an analysis has shown that there is insufficient evidence to prove that she willfully made any false statement.”

The first status hearing for the recommendations filed Tuesday by Johnson will be held next month.

Further reading:

Chicago residents think kids growing up there are as likely to be violent-crime victims as college graduates

After a blistering report, what’s next for the embattled Chicago police?

Voters decisively oust prosecutor in the McDonald case

This story, first posted at 7:17 p.m., has been updated.