Police Threaten To Blow A Black Teen’s Head Off After Wrongfully Apprehending Him
ACLU of Illinois

A new ACLU lawsuit is shining a light on a disturbing ordeal that a 19-year-old college student at Eastern Illinois University went through last year. According to legal documents filed last month in the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois, six police officers participated in the wrongful and disturbing detention of a young Black man which has led to inner turmoil for the undergraduate.

HuffPost reports that on Feb. 24, 2019, the plaintiff Jaylan Butler was on a bus trip from South Dakota with other members of the Eastern Illinois University swim team. Butler is the only Black student on the team. The group made a stop in East Moline, Illinois around 8 p.m. At that time Butler stepped off the bus and took a photo near a road sign for the team’s social media account.

Jaylan Butler stops to take a photo near a road sign that says "Buckle Up It's The Law"
Jaylan Butler stops to take a photo at a rest stop while on a bus trip with his swim team. (Photo: ACLU of Illinois)

Moments later the then-college freshman had firearms aimed at him by officers who were looking for a suspect who had reportedly shot at a vehicle on a close-by roadway. Jaylan Butler, according to the lawsuit, followed the instructions his father gave him to “maximize his chances of surviving an encounter with law enforcement.” He stopped, put his hands up, and dropped to the ground. That did not stop officers from shouting commands at him and threatening, “If you keep moving, I’m going to blow your fucking head off.”  

After coaches with the swim team confirmed that Butler was apart of the traveling unit, they quickly realized they had the wrong guy. Still, they continued to detain the young man who they had patted down, handcuffed, and placed in a squad car. The lawsuit alleges that Butler was never notified of why he was being detained and the police officers would not provide their badge numbers. Officers also failed to document the stop. The correct suspect was later apprehended.

In the months following Butler’s wrongful detention, the now sophomore says he has experienced anger, sadness, and depression. He also claims to have been traumatized by the event and has sought care from a therapist to deal with his emotional distress.

The lawsuit claims that the officers violated Butler’s 4th Amendment rights under the Illinois Constitution and have requested a jury trial.

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