Jaylan Butler is a college athlete at Eastern Illinois University. Last year, he was wrongfully detained and threatened by irresponsible cops. Now, he's seeking justice.
Just when thought things were getting better for black citizens in white America because of movements like Black Lives Matter, a new story of police brutality emerges. A lawsuit filed in January by Jaylan Butler, a black student at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois, alleges that the student was wrongfully handcuffed and threatened with a gun by police officers last year. Reportedly, the Rock Island County Sheriff's office was unaware of the incident until the lawsuit was filed. The student is seeking unspecified damages to be determined by a jury, CNN reports. The case is set to go to court soon.
The horrific incident took place on February 24, 2019, when Butler, a swimmer on the Eastern Illinois University swim team, was traveling back to school with his team after competing in the Summit League Swimming and Diving Championships in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Their bus had pulled over near a rest stop off I-80 in East Moline, Illinois. One of the student's coaches instructed him to take a picture of a road sign near where they had stopped. As he was walking back to the bus, police officers from the East Moline Police Department and Hampton Police Department as well as deputies from the Rock Island County Sheriff's Office suddenly confronted him.
According to the lawsuit, the police officials got out of their car and shouted expletives. They yelled, "Get down! Don't f**cking move! Stay right there!" One even exclaimed, "If you keep moving, I'm going to blow your f**cking head off." The lawsuit reads, "Plaintiff Jaylan Butler has always known that he could be targeted by police officers because he is Black. Mr. Butler's father taught him at a young age how to maximize his chances of surviving an encounter with law enforcement - stop instantly, put your hands up, drop anything you are holding, and drop to your knees." Though Butler followed these instructions carefully, he was handcuffed with his face down in the snow, threatened, and forced into the back of a police car.
The officers then approached the student's teammates and coaches. Upon asking them why they were with the student, his coach explained he was a college athlete. Eventually, Butler was able to show his ID to law enforcement. He was subsequently released. Police officials did not give him any information as to why he was detained; they did not share details about their badge numbers or names. Therefore, Butler filed the lawsuit against several police officers and sheriff's deputies in the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois on January 21, 2020. The officers and deputies named include East Moline Police Officer Travis Staes, Hampton Police Officer Ethan Bush, Rock Island County Sheriff's Deputy Jack Asquini, and Rock Island County Sheriff's Deputy Pena. Two John Does were also listed as defendants.
At present, official statements from the named police departments have been vague. East Moline Chief of Police Jeff Ramsey, for instance, asserted in a statement posted to the department's Facebook page, "Due to the pending lawsuit, I am not able to comment in detail, but I can confirm that Officer Staes did have a brief encounter with Mr. Butler and he handled that encounter properly, lawfully, and in accordance with the policies and procedures of the East Moline Police Department. At this early stage of litigation, I encourage our residents not to jump to conclusions based on what has been portrayed in the media and [the] language of the lawsuit. I am confident that the allegations against Officer Staes are without merit." Cases of unwarranted police brutality are unfortunately not uncommon still. Therefore, it can only be hoped that Butler is granted due justice for the trauma he had to experience at the hands of irresponsible police officers.