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DeKALB, Illinois — A DeKalb police officer has been assigned to administrative duties as social media picked up the Facebook video of a weekend arrest that appeared to show an officer holding a man around his neck while another officer used a Taser.
In a Tuesday news release from interim Chief John Petragallo, the department said it is “reviewing all available video footage and statements regarding the use of force in this incident.” The department has also asked the Illinois State Police to conduct an independent review.
On Saturday, police “received information” that Elonte McDowell, 25, of Aurora, was driving to DeKalb with a “load of drugs” in a tan Chevrolet Malibu, according to the Tuesday release. Police found the Malibu and stopped it and McDowell was asked to get out of the car, and did, while a police dog checked for narcotics.
The search turned up a “felony amount of cannabis,” according to the news release.
DeKalb police said McDowell tried to flee after he was told he was under arrest and resisted being placed in handcuffs. A Taser was used during the encounter, according to the news release. McDowell was handcuffed and at some point declined medical treatment, according to police.
In video footage, which has since been shared and viewed thousands of times, McDowell appears on the ground as officers try to put handcuffs on him.
“Record this, babe,” McDowell says to his girlfriend, who police said was in the car with him when it was stopped.
One officer has his arm wrapped around McDowell’s neck, while another tases him.
“He’s in a … chokehold and you just tased him,” says McDowell’s girlfriend. “For what?”
“I love you so much, for real, I love you so much,” she says, rubbing McDowell’s head as he lies still in handcuffs.
“You’re OK, big boy,” an officer says, patting McDowell on the cheek and shoulder.
McDowell lies still and does not respond.
An officer tells the girlfriend to back up and not to “impede my investigation.”
“Do you not understand I have a dog in my hand and he will bite you?” an officer says.
The video ends showing one officer guarding McDowell as he lies on the asphalt of the parking lot.
A bipartisan effort in 2015 led to an Illinois law that prohibits the use of chokeholds “unless deadly force is justified.”
The law defines a chokehold as “applying any direct pressure to the throat, windpipe, or airway of another with the intent to reduce or prevent the intake of air” and does not include “any holding involving contact with the neck that is not intended to reduce the intake of air.”
It’s unclear whether the officer holding his arm around McDowell’s neck would meet that definition. It’s also not know exactly what happened before the events shown in the video.
McDowell has retained an attorney, Antonio Jeffrey, who also said Illinois State Police were investigating the incident. State police confirmed they were investigating “the use of force portion of this incident,” according to Sgt. Jacqueline Cepeda, a state police spokeswoman.
DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott said his agency, along with DeKalb city police, asked for the outside review. The sheriff’s office had a K-9 unit on scene for an “external” drug search and another officer used a Taser during the arrest. Scott’s office’s review of the incident showed the county officer was within department guidelines when using the Taser.
“We just reviewed our officer’s actions and found he was within compliance. His actions were only the use of the Taser. He wasn’t involved in the wrestling match,” Scott said. “He acted within the scope of our rules and regulations regarding the use of the Taser and the Taser was meant to end and stop the struggle to alleviate any injuries. And it did that.”
Jeffrey’s office also is investigating and asked police for the city of DeKalb and DeKalb County to preserve evidence.
“What happened to our client … was completely unlawful, unjustified, and we believe racially motivated,” Jeffrey said in a statement.
In earlier video footage that appears to show McDowell being pulled over by officers, police ask McDowell if he is supposed to be on the property and say he is trespassing. McDowell, who tells police he was driving with his girlfriend to get a haircut, asks multiple times why he is being detained.
McDowell was charged with unlawful possession of cannabis with the intent to deliver, unlawful possession of cannabis, criminal trespass to property and resisting a peace officer, according to the police news release. He was taken to the DeKalb County Jail, but was ordered released on his own recognizance, according to court and jail records.
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