Cop fired after man died in custody
BY JUDY MASTERSON Sun-Times Mediaemail@example.com April 27, 2012 10:14PM
Updated: April 27, 2012 10:14PM
A North Chicago police officer has lost his job and another has been suspended for actions related to the arrest of Darrin “Dagwood” Hanna, who died a week after he was taken into custody Nov. 6.
North Chicago Interim Police Chief James Jackson announced during a standing-room only press conference on Friday the firing of Brandon Yost, a six-year veteran of the department, and the 30-day suspension without pay for Ofcr. Arthur Strong, a seven-year veteran of the force.
Yost, one of six officers named as defendants in a federal wrongful death suit brought by Hanna’s survivors, “violated several rules and regulations when he placed Hanna in a head lock and struck him in the face,” Jackson said, adding Yost also “mischaracterized or omitted information in interviews with investigators.”
Strong “provided false information” in reports, claiming that Hanna had approached officers wielding a flashlight, when other officers said he had come out with his fists clenched, Jackson said.
The disciplinary actions come after nearly six months and separate investigations or reviews of evidence by the Illinois State Police Integrity Unit, Lake County Coroner’s Office and the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office. The latter office found police used reasonable force. North Chicago also conducted its own internal investigation, led by a retired ranking officer with the state police.
But Hanna’s family and their supporters, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, say they will continue to protest for the removal of all officers involved, including Sgt. Salvatore Cecala, a veteran supervisor. Cecala told state police he heard the commotion of the arrest, but was tending to Hanna’s pregnant girlfriend whom, he said, ran screaming and naked into his arms and told police Hanna tried to drown her in a bathtub.
Members of the crowd heckled Jackson after he said Cecala and the other officers involved — Marc Keske, Gary Grayer, Tristin Brozick and Jayson Geryol — who with Yost and Strong were placed on desk duty following Hanna’s death, will immediately return to full duty. Jackson stated that officers “had every reason to suspect” that Hanna, who was allegedly holding his girlfriend against her will and had an outstanding warrant for aggravated battery against her, would be violent.
“Use of force is the most sensitive issue police officers face,” the chief said, adding that he has instituted new measures to better document use of force and roll-call training on use-of-force guidelines. “Today’s action should demonstrate quite clearly our commitment to holding officers accountable,” Jackson said.
Asked if Grayer was also guilty of making a false statement when he told ISP investigators he “dry-stunned” Hanna just twice when autopsy photos revealed seven pairs of Taser welts or burns on his back, Jackson responded, “That was his recollection. We’re not trying to hide anything.”
A detailed report on the actions of the officers during the arrest, released by the city on Friday, stated that “whether the Taser was deployed two or seven times” was not the issue, but whether Grayer used the weapon in compliance with department policies and procedures at the time.
Hanna family attorney Muriel Collison countered, “You don’t Taser someone seven times unless it’s for sport or you think it’s fun,” citing 22 formal complaints of excessive force against the North Chicago police force since 2005, 10 resulting in federal lawsuits, and four in deaths. Her Northbrook firm is litigating 12 cases.
Hanna’s cousin, State Rep. Rita Mayfield, (D-Waukegan), Rev. Jackson and others are pushing for an investigation by the Department of Justice.
“The integrity of the North Chicago Police Department has been compromised,” Mayfield said. “All statements to the Illinois State Police and the Lake County State’s Attorney have been undermined — so has the expectation of justice.”
Attorney Laura Scarry, representing the six officers in the civil suit, said she was disappointed by the disciplinary action. “The facts in the civil case will reveal the truth and that truth will be that officers acted properly,” she said.