Grand jury convened to probe possible cover-up in Laquan McDonald shooting

The special prosecutor assigned to investigate a possible cover-up by Chicago police in the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald said in court Wednesday that a special grand jury has been impaneled to hear evidence in the case.

Patricia Brown Holmes, the special prosecutor, said the special grand jury will begin issuing subpoenas over the next 30 to 45 days. She did not disclose if the grand jury has heard any evidence yet, but she said she will file documents under seal on Thursday with Leroy Martin Jr., the presiding judge at the Leighton Criminal Court Building.

During the brief hearing before Martin, Holmes said the special grand jury is made up of 26 people – 16 grand jurors and 10 alternates.

Martin named Holmes to look into whether officers lied to justify the October 2014 shooting of 17-year-old McDonald. Holmes' investigation also could extend to police supervisors, according to lawyers who sought the appointment of a special prosecutor.

A dashboard camera video of the shooting showed Officer Jason Van Dyke opening fire within seconds of exiting his police SUV as McDonald walked away with a knife in his hand, contradicting many of the officers' written accounts that the teen had lunged at police with the knife.

Van Dyke is awaiting trial on first-degree murder charges.

Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson recently moved to fire Van Dyke, three other patrol officers and a sergeant he accused of lying about the shooting.

Grand jury proceedings are kept secret by law. Grand jurors can ask questions and help steer the investigation, but the prosecutor typically still plays a key role in who, if anyone, would be indicted.

Holmes has said the investigation could last anywhere from weeks to months before the grand jury decides whether to indict any officers or not.

In February, a coalition of about 25 community groups, prominent attorneys and a member of McDonald's family filed a petition asking that a special prosecutor be appointed to investigate not only McDonald's shooting but also the officers at the scene. State's Attorney Anita Alvarez opposed a special prosecutor during her hard-fought re-election effort earlier this year, but after her primary loss, she withdrew her opposition.

Judge Vincent Gaughan, who is overseeing the criminal case against Van Dyke, appointed Kane County State's Attorney Joseph McMahon as a separate special prosecutor to handle the prosecution of Van Dyke.

sschmadeke@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @SteveSchmadeke

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