The athlete, a member of school’s swim team, is suffering trauma resulting from his false arrest
By Frederick H. Lowe
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has demanded a thorough investigation into the arrest of an Eastern Illinois University athlete, who police arrested and terrified with guns pointed at his head during a bus stop near East Moline, Illinois.
“I’m deeply troubled by what I’ve read about how Jaylan Butler, an African -American at athlete at EIU, was mistreated by law enforcement in East Moline,” Pritzker said in February 13th Facebook post. “It’s unacceptable for any young person to feel unsafe and disrespected anywhere in this state-but everyday too many young people of color live through it.”
Butler, a member of EIU’s swim team, was riding in the team bus, returning to the school in Charleston, Illinois, following a two-day swimming and diving meet in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on February 24, 2019.
The bus driver stopped so team members could walk around and stretch their legs. Butler, like the others, got off the bus, but within minutes cops forced him to the ground and pressed a gun to his forehead.
One police officer threatened to “blow his fucking head off” if he moved, according to a lawsuit filed January 21, 2020 in United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois which has locations in Peoria, Springfield, Urbana, and Rock Island, Iowa. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit in federal court.
The lawsuit names Travis Staes, an East Moline police officer, Ethan Bush, a Hampton police officer, Jack Asquini, a Rock Island County sheriff’s deputy, and deputy Pena, who first name is unknown. He is also a deputy with the Rock Island sheriff’s office. In addition, two other police officers whose names are not known also were involved in the arrest.
After Butler got off the bus, police cars flashing their Mars lights surrounded him.
“When Mr. Butler saw the law enforcement vehicles pull up, he was surprised and confused, but he knew what to do. He instantly stopped, put his hands up, dropped the cell phone that was in his hand and dropped to his knees,” the lawsuit said.
The cops got out of their patrol cars with guns pointed at Butler. One of the cops was armed with a rifle. They handcuffed Butler and forced him to lay face down in the snow. One of the cops used his knee to press against Butler’s back while another pressed a gun to Butler’s forehead and warned “If you keep moving. I’m going to blow your fucking head off.”
The charter bus driver asked the cops what they were doing with his passenger.
The team’s swim coach also explained that Butler was a member of the Eastern Illinois swim team.
The cops allowed Butler to sit up, but he remained handcuffed. The cops forced him into the back of a patrol car where they patted him down. Finally, they told him to retrieve his identification from the bus, which he did. They finally released him.
The cops never told Butler why he had been arrested, particularly after realizing he was not the person they sought.
The cops did not document the stop and search, which they were required to do under Illinois law. They also did not give Butler a receipt for the stop and search, which is required under Illinois law. They also ignored him when he said he wanted to file a complaint.
The arrest has traumatized Butler who is 19. He has felt angry, scared and depressed. He has had trouble concentrating at school and participating in activities.
One day in class, he found himself staring down at his bruises around his wrists, replaying the previous night’s events in his head until he realized class had ended and he was the only person sitting there.
He is now seeing a therapist to address the trauma and depression caused by the cops’ conduct,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit charges the cops with unlawful search and seizure, false arrest, excessive detention, excessive force, failure of bystander officers to intervene in unconstitutional conduct.
The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.