Three current and former Chicago police officers were acquitted on Thursday of conspiring to protect a colleague by lying about the circumstances around the fatal police shooting of a black teen.
The 2014 killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, which was captured on police video camera, triggered months of protests and became emblematic of longstanding police abuse in America's third-largest city.
A jury in October convicted a white police officer, Jason Van Dyke, of second-degree murder for firing 16 bullets into McDonald.
Video of the slaying showed the knife-wielding teen appearing to walk away from officers when he was shot.
Three of Van Dyke's fellow officers were charged with conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice for allegedly filing false reports about what happened.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Judge Domenica Stephenson said the evidence against them was weak and speculative, and she blasted prosecution witnesses as being unreliable.
The three charged officers had opted to forgo a jury trial in favor of letting the judge weigh the evidence.
McDonald's great uncle, Marvin Hunter, said the ruling proved the city's legal system was "corrupt." "This is not justice," Hunter told reporters, according to the Tribune.
"This judge had made up her mind... to make sure these officers never saw the inside of a jail."
Scattered applause from supporters of the accused trio could be heard in the courtroom after the judge ruled, according to the Tribune.
The city's police chief and lead prosecutor both lost their jobs after the McDonald shooting, one in a series of fatal encounters between US police and African Americans, who formed the Black Lives Matter movement in response.
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