An Eastern Illinois University swimmer is suing several law enforcement agencies for false arrest and excessive use of force for a 2019 incident that saw him mistakenly held down by police.
According to the Dispatch-Argus, the Eastern Illinois swim team bus was at a rest stop in East Moline, Ill., on Feb. 24, 2019 when police officers swarmed and held Jaylan Butler on the ground.
“Butler went from riding on a bus with his college swim team… to being forcefully held on the ground by police officers with a handgun pressed into his forehead while a police officer threatened to ‘blow [his] (explicit) head off’ if he moved,” the lawsuit says, according to WAND-17.
Butler told the Dispatch-Argus that he was taking a picture when the officers arrived, representing the East Moline and Hampton police departments, the Rock Island County Sheriff’s Office, and two unknown agencies, which are listed in the lawsuit as John Does.
“As I took the picture, there was a line of police officers … they came to a screeching stop in front of me,” said Butler, who was the only black member of Eastern Illinois’ team. “At that moment, I only knew a couple things to do that my dad always told me.”
Butler, a freshman at the time, said he willingly raised his hands and got on the ground, where he was held, handcuffed and threatened. He said he has been scared and anxious since the incident, which left him with bruises on his wrists.
The lawsuit, which was posted by WAND-17 and filed on Butler’s behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union, says that the officers “continued with detention and arrest” after realizing they were “mistaken in arresting Jaylan.” The lawsuit says that after officers realized their mistake, Butler was searched and placed in the back of a police car while they failed to document the stop or assist Butler with making a complaint.
Todd Slingerland, who was driving the Eastern Illinois bus, told the Dispatch-Argus that officers said they thought the bus was being held hostage and that the sheriff was busy with an active-shooter event.
“Looks like the closest we can find was a call of a 10-year-old child in Port Byron possibly waving a [toy] gun around down by the railroad tracks,” Rock Island County Sheriff Gerry Bustos said.
“What happened to Jaylan is an example of the harmful police interactions that people of color experience far too often, but which receive much less attention,” ACLU of Illinois attorney Rachel Murphy said. “These officers forcibly arrested and searched Jaylan without reasonable suspicion, probable cause, or any other lawful justification. They never told Jaylan why he was being arrested, even after they realized their mistake. Instead, it’s clear they based their decision to arrest and harm Jaylan on the fact that he was a young black man.”