Laquan McDonald activists want federal civil rights charges filed against Jason Van Dyke and other officers

William Calloway said organizers will consider a mass protest on Black Friday if they don’t get a response from U.S. Attorney John Lausch.

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Photo by Bog Chiarito

Activist William Calloway speaks at a press conference calling for federal civil rights charges to be filed against former Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke and other officers for the Laquan McDonald shooting and cover up at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse on Oct. 30, 2019.

William Calloway, the activist who spearheaded the release of the police video showing the shooting of Laquan McDonald that eventually led to a murder conviction against former Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, is now calling for U.S. Attorney John Lausch to file federal civil rights charges against Van Dyke and several other Chicago police officers.

 Calloway was joined by NAACP Chicago South Side President Rose Joshua and Rev. James Moody, senior pastor of Quinn Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church and community members who feel Van Dyke’s 81-month sentence and the acquittal of the other police officers in the related conspiracy case was not justice for the killing of McDonald.

Speaking in the lobby of the Everett McKinley Dirksen United States Courthouse Wednesday, Calloway and Joshua called on Lausch to file charges against Van Dyke, Chicago Police Officer Thomas Gaffney, former Officer Joseph Walsh and former Detective David March; along with Lt. Anthony Wojcik and Sgt. Daniel Gallagher.

“We believe Laquan McDonald’s civil rights were violated based on the facts of the case and we want to see Van Dyke and the others prosecuted,” Joshua said.

In January 2019, Cook County Associate Judge Domenica Stephenson found Gaffney, Walsh and March not guilty of all charges related to conspiring to cover up the shooting. They had been charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice and official misconduct for allegedly filing false reports.

Van Dyke, who shot McDonald 16 times, was convicted in October 2018 of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery. The day after the acquittal of Gaffney, Walsh and March, Van Dyke was sentenced in January to 81 months in prison.

“With the release of the inspector general’s report earlier this month, we now know that that Detective March, and officers Walsh and Gaffney falsified police reports and that Lt. Wojcik and Sgt. Gallagher met consistently to collaborate the reports in an effort to obstruct justice,” Calloway said. “With that being said, we are calling U.S. District Attorney John Lausch to file federal charges.”

Joseph Fitzpatrick, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, confirmed there was a federal investigation but refused to say if it has wrapped up or is ongoing. He also would not comment on whether any statute of limitation would stand in the way of potential charges. Additionally, Fitzpatrick would not comment on whether or not Lausch would meet with Calloway and other community leaders.

Calls to Dan Herbert, attorney for Jason Van Dyke, were not returned.

Typically there is a five-year statute of limitations on bringing federal civil rights charges, but it is not known if that would date back to the night McDonald was killed — October 20, 2014 — or in the time period after when police have alleged to have covered up the killing, Fitzpatrick said.

Callaway said despite the changes and reforms that have occurred since the 2014 incident, he and others are not going to rest.

The Justice Department launched its civil rights investigation of the Chicago Police Department in the aftermath of the release of video showing the police shooting of Laquan McDonald, which sparked mass protests in Chicago, including a downtown march disrupting Black Friday shopping on Nov. 27, 2015.

Indeed, the Laquan McDonald case led to the political defeat of Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, the firing of Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and, many believe, also caused Mayor Rahm Emanuel to not seek re-election for a third term. It also led to a 6,000-page report from Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, released October 9, that detailed the sweeping extent to which a dozen or so sworn officers of the Chicago Police Department appeared to have worked together to tell a false story of McDonald, whom they said was a suspect who had threatened – even injured – several officers and whom police were clearly justified in shooting.

Ferguson recommended the firing of 11 individuals. The Chicago Police Board had previously voted to fire one sergeant and three officers. Walsh and March had previously resigned, but Gaffney remains a police officer. (Last Thursday, a Cook County judge allowed March to have his arrest expunged from his record.)

On Wednesday, Joshua said they sent Lausch a letter on Sept. 29 asking for a meeting and have not heard anything back. Calloway added that they would give Lausch “another week” but if they are not satisfied soon, they would “do what we do best,” — likely begin street protests.

In 2015, days after the release of the police video that Calloway was instrumental in getting released, protesters took to the streets on Black Friday, the busy shopping day after Thanksgiving and blocked store entrances on Michigan Avenue.

Calloway said a similar Black Friday protest would be considered this year if he and his supporters are not satisfied.

“Everything is on the table.”

Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated the nature of the federal investigation.