CHICAGO — A man who witnessed a Chicago officer fatally shoot black teenager Laquan McDonald testified Thursday that police waved him away without questioning him that October 2014 night and didn’t even bother to take down his name.
Jose Torres, testifying in the trial of three officers accused of lying to protect the white officer who shot McDonald, offered an account that contradicts what the officers wrote in their reports. Torres said he decided to come forward with his version of events after he heard a spokesman for the police union on television telling reporters that McDonald “was lunging” at Officer Jason Van Dyke with the small knife the 17-year-old was carrying in his right hand.
“I told my wife at that moment, ‘They’re lying,” he testified. “I told her I had to say something. … It’s eating away at me (and) for the next few days, I couldn’t sleep.”
Torres’ testimony that McDonald was not lunging at Van Dyke matches video that was played repeated at Van Dyke’s trial last month in which the officer was convicted of second-degree murder.
Prosecutors are trying to show that after the shooting, former Detective David March, former Officer Joseph Walsh and Officer Thomas Gaffney began working to cover up what happened. March, Walsh and Gaffney are charged with conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice.
But under withering cross examination by attorneys for two of the officers, Torres was forced to acknowledge that some of the things he previously said matches the officers’ reports but not the dashcam video of the shooting.
For example, days after the shooting, Torres told investigators that it appeared to him that McDonald was trying to get up after being shot. Torres testified Thursday that he could not remember making that statement.
Torres also testified in Van Dyke’s trial and repeated much of that testimony Thursday.
Torres, who was driving his adult son to a hospital the night of the shooting, said it was clear to him that police wanted him to leave after he watched Van Dyke fire 16 bullets, many of them after McDonald had crumpled to the ground.
Days later, he said, he contacted the independent review board that investigates shootings involving Chicago police and met with investigators to tell of what he’d seen, including that McDonald appeared to be walking away from Van Dyke when he was shot.
Torres was one of the final prosecution witnesses. The bench trial in which a judge will decide whether the three are guilty is expected to end early next week.