Police Commander: Sergeant Had Duty To Reject False Reports About McDonald Shooting
A Chicago police Internal Affairs commander is disputing a sergeant’s claim he had no responsibility for the accuracy of reports by his subordinates that Laquan McDonald had “battered” and “injured” Jason Van Dyke, the officer who fired 16 shots, killing the teenager.
Cmdr. Tina Skahill testified Thursday that Sgt. Stephen Franko and other police supervisors who sign off on reports have “a duty to ensure, as much as they can, that the reports are accurate.”
That duty includes examining all evidence available to the supervisor, Skahill said.
Franko signed off on the reports as “approving supervisor” or “reviewing supervisor” a few hours after the shooting.
He testified on Wednesday that he chose not to watch more than “bits and pieces” of a now-infamous police dashcam video that shows McDonald walking away from officers before Van Dyke opened fire.
Franko said the video was played at the police station where he and other cops gathered after leaving the shooting scene. “I saw a few seconds and turned away,” he testified.
He insisted that his duty regarding those reports was to ensure “legibility and completeness,” not accuracy.
Skahill took issue with Franko’s interpretation of CPD rules and regulations, saying police supervisors who approve reports “cannot put their head in the sand.”
The testimony came on the second day of an evidentiary hearing about whether the city’s Police Board should fire Franko and Officers Daphne Sebastian, Ricardo Viramontes and Janet Mondragon — all accused of lying about the shooting, which took place in October 2014.
Viramontes’ attorney Jennifer Russell questioned the department’s commitment to accurate reporting, saying the department left the officers in their operational posts until bringing the dismissal charges in 2016.
“If the department really thought there was a Rule 14 violation, it shouldn’t have left them on the street,” Russell argued, referring to a CPD regulation against false reports. “The superintendent and supervisors knew of the arrest report and video for two years and left them on the street.”
In other testimony Thursday, Mondragon tried to explain past statements that she did not see who shot McDonald despite being in the driver’s seat of the SUV that recorded the video.
She testified she was putting the SUV into park for “two or three seconds” and, during the other 12 seconds of gunfire, she was focused on the teenager, who was presenting “the threat.”
“I knew [the shooter] was going to be Jason or Joe, or it could have been both of them,” Mondragon said, referring to Van Dyke and Joseph Walsh, his partner that night. “But at that moment, I didn’t know.”
Mondragon admitted she frequently exchanged text messages with Van Dyke before the shooting. A city attorney introduced phone records showing the two exchanged 70 messages in one day — less than two weeks before the shooting.
Mondragon denied the friendship affected what she reported about the shooting.
This hearing is set to wrap up on Friday. A Police Board hearing officer will eventually report to the board’s nine members about evidence and the credibility of witnesses. The board’s decision on whether to fire the officers can be challenged in Cook County circuit court.