The Chicago police officer charged with murder after shooting a black teenager last year played a part in the alleged cover-up of another police shooting 10 years ago, according to a civil suit filed against the city this month.
The chairman of the Chicago Latino Caucus questioned on Tuesday whether police used excessive force against Emmanuel Lopez, whose shooting death in 2005 sparked a three-year grand-jury probe.
Officer Jason Van Dyke — the same officer who fatally shot Laquan McDonald in 2014 — arrived at the scene after the shooting and wrote the case report. In the ensuing deposition, he admitted that he never actually interviewed witnesses to the shooting, and instead copied and signed the accounts of the officers involved.
Van Dyke was indicted on six counts of first-degree murder and one count of official misconduct on Wednesday for fatally shooting McDonald in October 2014.
Although his role in the case was relatively small, his involvement has refueled accusations of misconduct by Chicago police as the department is investigated by the US Department of Justice.
There is no dash-cam video of Lopez’s fatal shooting, but his advocates maintain that the narrative given by police is inconsistent with the evidence.
Lopez, an undocumented janitor from Mexico, was shot by police 16 times in the driver’s seat of his car after allegedly running over an officer and pinning him under the front bumper. Lopez had led them on a brief chase after attempting to escape being pulled over for speeding, Van Dyke’s report said.
“At that time, he continued to spin his tires. The officers, in fear for the officer’s life under the car, fired, killing him,” Chicago Police Superintendent Phil Cline said in September 2005.
In the deposition, Officer Brian Rovano testified that he fired at Lopez while he was pinned beneath the car. But according to the autopsy, the only bullet from Rovano’s gun had hit Lopez in the back, and had been fired at a downward angle.
Additionally, the tire prints on Rovano’s pants appeared to have been made by someone hand-rolling a tire over a pair of pants laid flat, according to an FBI expert hired by the Lopez family.
Van Dyke said in the deposition that he never questioned the officers involved in the shooting because it was “out of [his] pay grade.”
“I’m not the investigator on this. I’m just documenting what happened. I think it was just easier to do it that way instead of me asking, asking, asking and him answering, answering, answering,” he said.
His actions “show the effort the Chicago Police Department will go to in order to cover up police misconduct,” the family’s attorney, Terry Ekl, told the Chicago Tribune. “They were trying to keep a lid on how this shooting took place and to concoct a defence for shooting an unarmed guy 16 times.”
After a two-year investigation, Cook County prosecutors announced in 2008 that they would not charge any of the police officers involved in the shooting.
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