Chicago cop Jason Van Dyke faces up to 45 years in prison for what police told a witness she didn’t see in their attempt to cover up a fatal shooting after they realized her attempt to record it failed.
Several Chicago cops, along with the City of Chicago, are being sued by a woman who witnessed the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald for detaining her for six hours, pressuring her to change her story and attempting to convince her that what she actually saw was “not what really happened,” according to a lawsuit filed in a U.S District Court in Chicago on Monday.
“It was super-exaggerated,” Alma Benitez who filed the lawsuit said, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“You didn’t need that many cops to begin with. They didn’t need to shoot him. They didn’t. They basically had him face to face. There was no purpose why they had to shoot him,” she added.
The lawsuit also alleges, among other things, that none of the officers on the scene who wrote false reports after McDonald was shot, minus Van Dyke, were ever discipline or stripped of their police powers prior to releasing video of the shooting in November 2015.
Dash cam video that recorded the incident on October 20, 2014 shows Van Dyke shooting McDonald several times as he walked down the street with the knife in his hand.
Chicago cops claimed McDonald lunged at them with the knife in a menacing manner, which is something we read and hear a lot, but rarely see evidence of after video footage is released.
The dash cam video shows McDonald nowhere near Van Dyke, and shows he never lunged at anyone.
As she witnessed several cops tailing McDonald as he jogged in the street before being fatally shot, Benitez tried to record video with her cell phone camera, but wasn’t sure if she captured any footage.
When police noticed her trying to record the shooting and its aftermath, they detained her, insisting she turn over her phone.
After they obtained her phone and found it was “negative for any video recording,” they drove her to Area Headquarters where she was interrogated, encouraged to forget what she saw and pressured to retract what happened.
Detectives began gas-lighting Benitez, telling her they had video footage that disproved what she claimed she saw.
They said they had footage that showed McDonald lunging at Van Dyke with a knife.
But they didn’t.
Benitez’s lawsuit alleges several cops and detectives wrote falsified what she and other witnesses at the scene had told them, misstating their official police reports.
One report mentioned a truck driver who was updating his logbook in the Burger King parking lot who heard the shooting but didn’t see it.
However, that same truck driver told McDonald’s family’s attorneys that he did see the shooting and recounted that it was “like an execution,” according to the Tribune.
Benitez’s complaint accuses the Chicago Police Department of committing the acts as part of their long-standing “code of silence,” which caused individual cops to commit specific acts of misconduct and other unconstitutional acts against Plaintiff, which can be read in the lawsuit included below.
During her detainment, Benitez was never told she was free to go, nor was she ever given a choice about whether she had to go to Area Central.
Nor was she given the option to take her own car.
According the the lawsuit, Benitez did not go to Area Central on her own free will.
And she was not free to leave.
In addition to claiming damages against the Chicago Police Department and its officers, the suit alleges “code of silence” was widespread and known by the City of Chicago’s municipal policy-makers who approved and authorized the practice with deliberate indifference in maintaining, overlooking and preserving the code of silence.
That code of silence and the false reporting about the circumstances surrounding the shooting resulted in the video to be withheld from the public for over a year.
Further, the lawsuit alleges the City of Chicago, through the Chicago Police Department and its officers suppressed, concealed and covered-up Jason Van Dyke’s unjustified shooting of Laquan McDonald.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Van Dyke’s defense team has requested McDonald’s juvenile records from DCFS, otherwise known as CPS, which is also known to falsify records across the country.
McDonald became a ward of the state at age three and had several arrests as he bounced from foster home to foster home.
Judge Vincent Gaughan asked the Department of Children and Family Services to send over the 8,200 pages of McDonald’s juvenile court records, but has yet to decided whether Jason Van Dyke’s defense team will see the files after he looks them over.
Judge Gaughan also hasn’t explained what McDonald’s juvenile records have to do with a shooting McDonald in the first place, when he was never running towards nor lunging at Van Dyke as he alleged.