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Federal lawsuit claims Carpentersville police entered home without warrant, choked teenager

A disciplinary investigation into the actions of two Carpentersville police officers, who were seen on video entering a home without a warrant and choking a boy inside, did not find substantiated evidence of misconduct, village attorney Brad Stewart said.

The situation, which began as a police search for a runaway girl, now is the subject of a federal lawsuit accusing police of bursting into a Carpentersville home without a warrant before choking and arresting a teenage boy.

Keenan Saulter, the attorney representing the juvenile’s family, has called the altercation an example of “police brutality” and said a June 14 home surveillance video recording of the situation captured his client being placed under a “false arrest.”

“He posed no threat,” Saulter said. “This was police brutality, plain and simple.”

Saulter said he was not aware of any third-party investigation.

The law firm that represents the village in the federal suit could not be reached for comment. In an email sent Friday afternoon, Stewart announced that a third-party investigation concluded there was no evidence of misconduct on the officer’s part.

“The village of Carpentersville opened a disciplinary investigation into an incident involving a police interaction with a male minor. The two police officers who were at the scene were placed on administrative leave, while a third-party investigator reviewed the available evidence, including fuller video footage from the house,” Stewart said. “The village believed that it was important that an outside party conduct the investigation so that there could be no question of bias or protectionism towards the officers involved. The investigation did not find substantiated misconduct by the officers.”

In the video, one officer can be seen opening a closed but apparently unlocked door to the home, then waiting a moment before shouting, “Hello, your door is open.”

Two boys were home at the time while their mother, Violet Hernandez, was at work, according to the lawsuit. One of the boys approached the door and told police, “Oh yeah, sir I don’t feel comfortable opening this door without my parents here, sir.”

The officer proceeded to ask the teen for his name and age, saying “We need to find your girlfriend.”

“I don’t even feel comfortable –,” the boy replied.

Eventually, one of the two plain-clothes officers wedged himself into the doorway. He then grabbed the teenager by the throat and shoved him onto an adjacent couch, while a second officer placed the juvenile in handcuffs.

The altercation happened in front of the boy’s juvenile brother, Chicago attorney Keenan Saulter wrote in his civil complaint against the village.

“This all occurred while [the other boy] looked on in horror as his brother was being brutalized and arrested for no reason,” Saulter wrote.

The attorney filed the civil suit Aug. 7 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The family is seeking damages for unlawful search and seizure, false imprisonment, assault, battery, invasion of privacy, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional stress, and trespassing. The village of Carpentersville, Carpentersville Police Cmdr. Paul Bryan and unknown police officers all are named in the suit.

“The actions, omissions and conduct of Defendant Carpentersville Police Officers … were extreme and outrageous and exceeded all bounds of human decency,” Saulter wrote.

The altercation shown on the surveillance video was captured during officers’ second visit to the home, Stewart said.

“The police department was responding for a second time to another agency’s request to investigate a missing girl; the same girl was reported to have told a family member that the male minor involved in the incident had lied to the police about the missing girl not being at the house the day before, when she actually was there,” Stewart said.

The village attorney also said that before entering the house, the officers knocked and announced themselves multiple times, and had observed people inside moving around the first floor without answering the door.

“The investigation concluded that the officers’ actions were reasonable to ensure the safety of the missing girl and that a crime was not underway,” Stewart said. “The family of the male minor involved in the incident refused, through their attorney, to provide a statement for the investigation and never filed a complaint with the police department.”

The situation began June 13 when one of the teenager’s friends ran away from home, according to the lawsuit. The boy reportedly called his friend an Uber and told her to go home, but that same day, police showed up at the teen’s house searching for the missing girl. The commotion frightened the other juvenile boy who was home at the time, prompting him to call his mother while he was “hysterically crying,” according to the lawsuit.

Officers proceeded to search the home without a warrant, knowing that the teenager’s mother wasn’t home, Saulter wrote.

[The boys’ mother] spoke with [police] via phone and asked the officer that she spoke with ‘Why are you in my house?’ ” the attorney wrote.

Officers went back to the house the following day, and the teenager again told police his mother wasn’t home and he wasn’t comfortable letting them inside.

“Upon hearing this [police] immediately encroached further into the family’s home and began to choke [the teenager] against the front door,” Saulter wrote.

The girl returned home before the Carpentersville Police Department released the juvenile boy, Saulter said.

It’s not the first time the city has been sued for alleged police brutality.

In 2012, Crystal Lake man Johny Perez was awarded a $50,000 settlement after suing the village and its police department for allegedly battering and racially mistreating him during a traffic stop.

Stewart said Friday that the village of Carpentersville takes all allegation of police officer misconduct seriously and “would not hesitate” discipline any officer who conducts himself or herself inappropriately.

“There are times that police officers must make critical decisions in exigent circumstances. The village respects and appreciates that people have concerns about the appropriate use of force by police officers. The police were ultimately trying to bring a girl, who had been missing for two days, home safely to her family,” Stewart said. 

“The matter is otherwise in litigation, and we hope that people keep an open mind to the fact that there is a lot more to this situation than an edited video clip suggests,” Stewart said.

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