A lawsuit filed in federal court alleges that several police officers used excessive force against a man who ultimately faced no criminal charges in connection with a November 2007 domestic disturbance. In the complaint, Roosevelt Johnson, Jr. alleges he suffered broken bones and bruises as a result of being kicked and punched by Forest Park police. Johnson also contends that one of the officers unnecessarily used a stun gun against him, and the device caused burns and puncture wounds.
In addition to the officers who responded to the domestic disturbance call, Johnson also names the police chief and the municipality as defendants for failing to adequately supervise the officers.
Johnson is suing for more than $800,000.
A police department report on the incident reported that Johnson had been drinking and was uncooperative.
According to his complaint, Johnson, a resident of Elgin, was in Forest Park on Nov. 22, 2007, visiting family. Shortly before 5 p.m., someone in the home called the police to report a domestic disturbance. Before authorities arrived, Johnson claims he disarmed an unidentified family member who was using a kitchen knife to threaten others in the home. When police came to the door, Johnson put the knife on a counter and stepped away. Then, as he attempted to explain to police what had happed, one officer used his Taser, according to the suit.
“… [W]ithout provocation or warning, defendant officer Richard Becker deployed his Taser gun and struck plaintiff Roosevelt Johnson, Jr. multiple times with said Taser gun,” an attorney for Johnson said in the Nov. 20 complaint.
“After being struck multiple times with said Taser, plaintiff Roosevelt Johnson, Jr. went to the ground and was tackled and subsequently kicked, punched and hit about the head and body,” according to the suit.
Five other officers at the scene, Andrea Caines, Steven Zanoni, Daniel Miller, Michael Przybylski and Dean Savas, are accused of participating in the alleged beating.
Attorneys for the defendants have not yet responded in court to the allegations, and Ryan, the department chief, said he would not comment on a pending legal matter.
A department report on the incident filed by Becker indicates that Johnson had been drinking that day, and did not cooperate with police. Also, paramedics were called to the scene but Johnson refused treatment for any injuries he may have sustained.
His mother told authorities that Johnson was bipolar and on several medications.
In his report, Becker stated that while visiting his parents, Johnson’s father picked up a knife to threaten his son into leaving the home. When Johnson grabbed his own knife, his father put his back in the kitchen to try and bring the situation under control. That account was provided to police by Johnson’s mother.
At the time police arrived, Johnson was still holding a knife and his mother was attempting to restrain him, according to Becker’s report. Having been told three times to drop the weapon, Johnson was still holding the knife when Becker used his Taser. The knife fell onto a table and Johnson backed away, but he was not incapacitated by the stun gun. Police then attempted to put handcuffs on Johnson, but he pulled his arms to his chest and fought against efforts to restrain him, according to the report. Johnson was then stunned two more times.
As police were leaving the home, Johnson’s parents said they did not wish to file charges. Johnson was taken to the police station where he allegedly revealed that his father has a history of abusing both he and his mother, and that he picked up the knife only as a response to his father’s threat. He was not charged with a crime, and was allowed to remain at the department while he calmed down.
Becker also offered to help Johnson get counseling for his “aggression and his family issues,” but the offer was turned down, according to his report.
“I gave [Johnson] my information and told him he was free to contact myself or anyone else at the police station if he ever changed his mind,” Becker said in his report.