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Chicago police sergeant charged for slapping handcuffed suspect

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The man who accused a Gresham District Chicago Police sergeant of repeatedly slapping him while he was handcuffed was about to spit--or “hock a loogie” on the officer, a defense attorney claimed Friday.

The Oct. 11, 2010 incident, which was caught on surveillance tape, took place in the parking lot of King Gyros, 7904 S. Vincennes, as officers investigated a trespassing claim at the eatery.

The 19-year-old victim, Gregory Jeffries, was arrested, handcuffed behind his back, searched and was being questioned by a group of officers when Sgt. Edward Howard arrived on the scene in his squad car, Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Lauren A. Freeman said.

Howard “apparently didn’t like the way he [Jeffries] was answering questions” and proceeded, unprovoked, to strike Jeffries in the face at least three times with an open hand, Freeman said.

The final strike was forceful enough to knock Jeffries backwards and off balance against the squad car, authorities said. Jeffries ended up spitting blood as a result of the attack, according to a federal lawsuit Jeffries filed against the arresting officers.

Defense attorney Robert D. Kuzas argued Friday that Howard, 48, was provoked by an unruly Jeffries.

“There was provocation…If I tried to spit on you, wouldn’t you think that’s offensive?” Kuzas said.

When asked if spitting constitutes a reason for an officer of the law to strike someone, Kuzas responded: “I think it does, I definitely think it does…I don’t care who you are. If someone’s attempting to spit on you, of course you have a right to defend yourself.”

But Kuzas said the spit never got out of Jeffries’ mouth. “It was more of a hacker up—you know, where you’ve got it lined up in the throat to send the projectile out,” he said.

Jeffries, who had come to the eatery with his friends, suffered cuts, bruises and swelling.

According to the federal lawsuit, Jeffries was punched, called slurs and told, “You think this your hood?” Jeffries’ friend had his head hit against a brick wall and was choked and punched in the ribs, the lawsuit said.

Jeffries was eventually taken to the South Side station where officers refused to give him the name of the sergeant who “had bloodied his face,” the lawsuit said. At one point, the college student was asked if he wanted to see the sergeant. When Jeffries replied in the affirmative, he was told, “You must want to get hit again,” the lawsuit said.

The criminal trespassing charge against Jeffries was dropped in December.

Eight days after the incident, Mayor Daley called the beating “unacceptable here or anyplace else.”

Daley also lauded then police superintendent Jody Weis for suspending the sergeant and six other officers who watched, but did not intervene.

Kuzas on Friday described his client as a father of three and a 25-year veteran of the police department who grew up in a military family.

Howard has been stripped of his police powers and has been on desk duties. He was released after posting ten percent of his $20,000 bond on aggravated battery and official misconduct charges Friday afternoon.

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