Intimidating witnesses, falsifying public records and a conspiracy that more than one person was involved -- Attorneys representing the estate of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who died Oct. 20, 2014, after being shot by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke with 16 bullets, claim three witnesses to the shooting were questioned for hours, threatened by police officers and ordered to change their accounts to match the official Chicago police version of the shooting.
Allegations of potential coercion are documented in 3,000-plus pages of recently released documents related to the case. The teen's attorneys also allege police officers up the chain of command fabricated witness accounts to support the way officers at the scene described the shooting as justified, reports CNN Friday.
A police dashcam video led to the first-degree murder indictment of Officer Van Dyke last November.
CNN stated they contacted two of McDonald's attorneys, Jeffrey Neslund and Michael Robbins after the city released the documents to news media in response to multiple Freedom of Information Act requests.
Robbins said they stand by the accusations made to Chicago city officers last March. "You have a false narrative put out by police," he said, "outright lies to cover up an illegal shooting, corroborated by other officers."
Chicago spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi said it was the first time he heard of the allegations. "But this is why we want an independent investigation to look at every fact. But unfortunately, we're not able to comment on any specific incident," he told CNN.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office declined to comment on the allegations, and instead cited that the police actions surrounding this shooting "are under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for possible criminal charges, and by the city's Inspector General for possible disciplinary action."
Van Dyke, 37, pleaded not guilty in December and is free on bail. His attorney has said the officer had feared for his life before he opened fire, shooting the teen 16 times.
Five officers at the scene, including Van Dyke's partner, corroborated his account that McDonald lunged at him. "When McDonald got to within 12 to 15 feet of the officers, he swung the knife toward the officers in an aggressive manner," Van Dyke's partner said in an official police report.
However, the police dashcam video shows McDonald walking down the road with a knife in his hand, heading away from officers. The city fought the video's release for 13 months. The city paid McDonald's family $5 million over the shooting, and as part of the deal, the video would not be released. Van Dyke was charged just hours before it was made public.