McHenry County prosecutors on Friday announced they would not file charges against a sheriff’s deputy who was under criminal investigation regarding inappropriate use of force during a June arrest in Woodstock.
After reviewing case materials and conferring with a use of force expert, prosecutors chose not to file charges against McHenry County Sheriff’s Deputy Timothy Bengtson, according to a news release.
“We do not believe we have sufficient evidence to sustain any criminal charge against Deputy Bengtson beyond a reasonable doubt,” the office said in the release, issued Friday afternoon.
The McHenry County Sheriff’s Office placed Bengtson on paid administrative leave in July while the investigation was ongoing. With the criminal investigation complete, the sheriff’s department will continue its internal investigation, according to a statement the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office emailed Friday.
“We appreciate the thorough review by the McHenry County States Attorney’s Office of the criminal investigation,” the sheriff’s office wrote. “Our internal investigation was paused and will now resume as we look at possible policy and procedure violations.”
A criminal investigation was launched in late June, when the Woodstock Police Department provided the sheriff’s office with video of the June 17 arrest of four people.
Bengtson assisted Woodstock police that day in stopping a vehicle that was allegedly involved in a burglary at the Woodstock Blain’s Farm and Fleet.
Arrested in connection with the reported burglary were Cody Shambo, of Sandwich; Benjamin Holden and William Culley, of Elgin; and Andrea R. Nielsen, of Algonquin. Although McHenry County sheriff’s officers are not outfitted with body cameras, a Woodstock police officer’s body camera briefly captured the interaction in question.
Footage from the arrest showed Bengtson put his arm across Neilsen’s throat before walking with her several feet and handcuffing her on the ground. Nielsen could be heard shouting at police and accusing Bengtson of choking her and using excessive force, video footage showed.
After reviewing the dashcam and police body camera footage of the arrests, Woodstock Deputy Police Chief Jeffrey Parsons said he felt the sheriff’s deputy’s actions “were worthy for the McHenry County Sheriff’s administration to be made aware of.”
As part of its investigation, the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office asked consultant and use-of-force expert Steve Ijames to review police reports and video from the June 1 arrest. Ijames concluded that Bengtson’s “physical control measures” were justified and didn’t meet the definition of “chokehold” or respiratory restraint under Illinois law. He also said Nielsen appeared to be resisting arrest at the time.
“The key to differentiating between a potentially deadly force respiratory neck restraint (‘choke’) and a minimally intrusive vascular restraint is the position of the officer’s elbow in relation to the suspects chin,” Ijames wrote in a seven-page report.
The consultant included a photo of white former New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo restraining Black man Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold as an example of improper arm positioning in a neck restraint.
That, Ijames said, is not the same tactic Bengtson used during Nielsen’s arrest.
“The material reviewed suggests that Ms. Nielsen believed and verbalized that she was ‘choked.’ This often occurs when a person is exposed to a properly applied vascular restraint, as they feel neck pressure and discomfort," Ijames wrote.