By: Jeremy GornerContact Reporter
Breaking his monthslong silence, the lead lawyer for the Chicago police officer charged with murder in the shooting of Laquan McDonald said Monday that his client is devastated that other officers have resigned or could lose their jobs over the scandal.
Daniel Herbert said the prospect of four other officers being fired over the fatal shooting has been “very difficult” for Officer Jason Van Dyke.
“He was fine when it was just him that was looking at severe consequences,” Herbert told reporters. “But when he sees fellow officers resigning … it’s been extremely difficult for him.”
Herbert’s comments came after the first status hearing Monday for Van Dyke and four other officers before the Chicago Police Board after police Superintendent Eddie Johnson moved for their firing. Until Monday, Herbert hadn’t spoken for a few months about the McDonald case after a Cook County judge imposed a gag order on the criminal proceedings.
The dashboard camera video of the white police officer shooting the black teen 16 times has caused a firestorm of controversy and led to calls for major reforms and a U.S. Justice Department investigation of Chicago police practices.
Special prosecutor Patricia Brown Holmes was given the green light last week for a grand jury to be impaneled to investigate a possible cover-up by police in the October 2014 shooting of the 17-year-old. The probe will look into whether officers lied in police reports about the justification for the shooting.
The video showed Van Dyke opening fire within seconds of exiting his police SUV as McDonald walked away with a knife in his hand, contradicting many of the officers’ written accounts that the teen had lunged at police with the knife. Van Dyke shot the teen 16 times.
Neither Van Dyke nor the other four cops facing possible firing — Officers Ricardo Viramontes, Daphne Sebastian and Janet Mondragon and Sgt. Stephen Franko — attended the Police Board hearing.
None of the other lawyers for those officers commented after the hearing.
Herbert noted how unusual it is for officers to face disciplinary charges from the department while criminal charges are still proceeding. But he said any decisions made by the Police Board shouldn’t affect the criminal probe.
When asked by a reporter if Van Dyke’s defense would be tainted at trial if he were fired beforehand, Herbert replied, “I don’t know how we will ever get a jury that is not tainted.
“We know the media coverage, and there’s daily articles about this case,” he said.