CHICAGO, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- At least three witnesses to the 2014 shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald said police threatened them to change their stories to match the police department's official account, attorneys for the teen's estate said.
The allegations, contained in more than 3,000 pages of released documents, include the suggestion that high-ranking Chicago police officers fabricated witness statements to jibe with the way the street cops described the events and support the claims it was a justified shooting.
"Civilian witnesses have told us that they were held against their will for hours, intensively questioned by detectives, during which they were repeatedly pressured by police to change their statements. When the witnesses refused to do so, the investigating officers simply fabricated civilian accounts in the reports," attorney Michael D. Robbins said in a letter to the city.
Officer Jason Van Dyke pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in Laquan's death. The teen was shot 16 times on Oct. 20, 2014. Police dashcam video shows the teen turned his back on the officer and began walking away while carrying knife, but at least five officers who were at the scene back up the official account that Laquan lunged at Van Dyke.
Attorney Jeffrey J. Neslund said a woman, whose name was redacted, was taken to the police department after the shooting and "was held against her will and intensively questioned for over six hours."
"During the questioning, detectives repeatedly attempted to get her to change her statement, telling her that her story 'did not match the video,' which they refused to show her," Neslund said.
Neslund said a motorist and his son who saw the shooting were threatened with arrest by a uniformed police officer if they didn't leave the area. A truck driver at a nearby fast-food restaurant told attorneys he and two other people witnessed the shooting. They were taken to the police station and interviewed for hours, the attorney said.
Neslund said the city allowed him to examine documents that said police interviewed five people in the vicinity of the shooting, but none actually saw the shooting. Neslund and Robbins said witness statements in the official documents are not true.
"The truck driver says he did tell police that it was like an execution," Robbins said. "What he described was what we saw in the video."