Yorkville police fired one sergeant and disciplined two officers after one of them taunted a 44-year-old man for living with his mother and urged the man who was choking himself to “finish yourself off.”
Police dashcam video obtained by The Beacon-News shows officers responding to a disturbance in a residential neighborhood Sept. 14, 2017, and the situation escalates as the man and his mother go inside their home.
The man yells obscenities at officers. Officer Jeffrey Johnson then ridicules the man, challenges him to “bring it,” and later tells other officers the man is “getting tased immediately — just FYI,” according to the audio, reports ABC7.
“Hey, you still live with mom. Bring it. Bring it. Bring it. Bring it. Go ahead, please, finish yourself off,” Johnson said to the Yorkville man who had run inside his house in the 2500 block of Overland Court and grabbed his own throat.
The Yorkville Police Department concluded an internal investigation and on Aug. 2 announced disciplinary measures against the three officers. Sgt. Sarah Klingel was fired. Johnson was suspended without pay for 30 days. Officer Christopher Hayes received a written warning.
“What is on the (dashcam) video tape does not meet up with the mission or the values of the Yorkville Police Department and that type of behavior from officers is completely unacceptable,” Yorkville Chief of Police Rich Hart said.
The man was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting a police officer and his mother was charged with resisting a police officer, court records show.
In July, Kendall County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Krentz found them not guilty. He criticized the officers’ behavior, writing they “chose to escalate the conflict by insulting and taunting (a man) who was obviously experiencing emotional distress.”
“The video recording reveals the officers trying to goad him into committing acts of violence by challenging him to come out of the residence to fight,” Krentz wrote. “Inexplicably, one officer even challenged him to take his own life.”
Police were called to the house at 9:23 a.m. after receiving a report that the man was arguing with his mother and throwing garbage in the street.
Johnson’s account of the incident is outlined in police reports obtained by The Beacon-News. Johnson observed the male resident walking aggressively toward his squad car, then throwing up his arms and yelling “Let’s go” before running back to his house, according to the document.
Johnson said he then tried to speak with the man’s mother, who is in her 70s, but she walked inside the home and locked the door, the report states.
While the police video does not show what happened next, it includes audio from a microphone on Johnson’s uniform. The mother asked what the problem was and Johnson said, “I’ve had several calls of him having a temper tantrum … He barricaded himself in the house.”
According to the audio, the mother explained that she has been trying to get her son to see a doctor and that he has post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I’m going to do what I gotta do to get him,” Johnson said. “I’m not leaving until I talk to him.”
Officers observed the man and his mother in the house through a window and the man continued to yell obscenities and show his middle finger to the police officers, Johnson wrote.
At one point, the man choked himself in front of the window, according to the document.
Shortly after, Klingel arrived on the scene and Johnson told her “(the man) wants to fight,” according to the audio.
Klingel replied, “Rock and roll.”
“Guess what? We’re breaking in the (expletive) door. Bring it on, bring it on,” Klingel said, followed by the officers making an unsuccessful attempt to knock down the door.
The officers later said they were concerned about the man’s mental health and the safety of his mother, according to reports.
On the audio, Johnson says, “He’s getting cited for littering, that’s for sure… I got the taser out. He’s getting tased immediately — just FYI.”
Klingel moved her squad car into the driveway to block the mother and son from leaving. Shortly after, the garage opened with the mother and son in a red car. The car backed up a few inches and then stopped because they were blocked in by the squad car, Johnson wrote.
Klingel unlocked the car doors from the driver’s side and officers ordered the man out of the car.
The man resisted, and Johnson tased him as the man yelled obscenities, Johnson wrote. He was eventually handcuffed, Johnson said.
Officers had previous encounters with the man, who has criminal convictions for drug possession, retail theft, DUI, and domestic battery, records show. Neither he nor his mother could be reached for comment.
Hart said Klingel was fired because sergeants are first-line supervisors and she was in charge. Proper protocol would have been to de-escalate the situation, Hart said.
Additionally, the officers did not report the seriousness of the matter to command staff until after the court case began, he said.
“The deputy chiefs and myself were aware there was an incident and we knew someone was tased, but the details of the report did not match the severity,” Hart said. “Part of Sgt. Klingel’s duty is to inform the chain of command in instances like that.”
Hart said he became aware of the severity of the incident from a neighboring police agency that told him they were planning to highlight the case as an example to train officers on how not to behave.
Klingel had been with the force since 2003 and was promoted to sergeant in May 2013.
Johnson served a 30-day suspension and has since returned to work. He received the longest unpaid suspension allowed by state law.
Johnson, who will have been with the department 16 years in November, reread and signed a letter stating he understands the officer conduct guidelines. Hart said Johnson was retrained on how to de-escalate situations and how to deal with mentally ill and agitated people.
Hayes was given a written warning because he witnessed the behavior and failed to report it, Hart said.
No criminal charges or civil lawsuits have been filed against the officers, Hart said.
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
August 26th, 2018