An Illinois police officer who uncovers a video of a black man dying in the back of a police car is placed on leave
Joliet Police Sgt Javier Esqueda (pictured) was placed on administrative leave on Monday after showing a video of a black man dying in the back of a police car
An Illinois police officer was stripped of his badge after revealing the death of a black man who died in the back of a police car earlier this year.
Sergeant Javier Esqueda, a 27-year-old veteran of the Joliet Police Department, blew the whistle on Eric Lurry’s death last week by providing CBS2 with a video of officers holding the man’s nose and closing it almost two minutes after they arrested him in January.
The Will County coroner determined that Lurry died of an “accidental overdose” after swallowing a large amount of drugs and said the police were not responsible for his death.
But the incident was spotlighted months later after Esqueda’s video appeared.
Parts of the audio in the footage are missing, giving rise to allegations that the police may have tampered with it.
Esqueda was placed on administrative leave on Monday because calls for an independent investigation increased according to CBS2.
A police source told the outlet, “That’s what you get” because you’re going against the “blue wall of silence.”
Eric Lurry, 37, was arrested during a drug operation on January 29. Video provided to CBS2 showed that Lurry seemed to choke while sitting in the police car handcuffed, with one officer keeping his nose closed and another putting a stick in his mouth.
The Will County coroner determined that Lurry (pictured) died of an ‘accidental overdose’ after swallowing a large amount of drugs and said the police were not responsible
Lurry, a 37-year-old father of three, was taken into custody on January 29 in what the authorities described as an undercover operation.
Images shot from the dashboard of the police car he was driving show that he seems to be chewing something while sitting in the back seat with his head tilted back.
Minutes later, he stopped responding when officers tried to pull him out of the vehicle.
A plainclothes officer, identified as Sergeant Doug May, then gets in the vehicle and slaps Lurry in the face and says, “Wake up, dammit.”
The audio drops out when May squeezes Lurry’s nose for a minute and 38 seconds, while another officer is seen using a collapsible baton to try to pull an object they thought was suffocating Lurry.
Lurry was subsequently hospitalized and died hours later. The Will County coroner said he had enough heroin, fentanyl and cocaine in his system to kill ten people.
The video features officers attempting to pull an unresponsive Lurry out of the police car before an officer, identified as Sergeant Doug May, slaps him in the face and says, “Wake up, b *** h”
Audio drops out as May Lurry’s nose squeezes for one minute and 38 seconds, while another officer is seen using a collapsible baton to try to pull an object from his throat
Over the next five months, police are said to have withheld information about Lurry’s death from lawyers for his wife Nicole, she told CBS2.
It wasn’t until Esqueda released the video that Nicole finally got some answers about her husband’s final moments.
Esqueda said he has blown the whistle because he thinks his department has had a cover-up.
“Seeing that video was so disturbing that I cried,” he told CBS2. “Having to live with that every day was difficult, knowing that this administration probably wouldn’t do anything about it.”
‘He [Lurry] suffocated. In my opinion, everyone would suffocate in that situation.
“I’m not a doctor. But if you put your hand on your nose like this and someone covers your mouth and you can’t breathe, think about the battle. ‘
Esqueda said he believed that the officers had shut off Lurry’s air supply in an attempt to make him cough up a bag of drugs, but noted that such a maneuver was banned a few years ago.
Asked if it was a criminal offense, Esqueda said, “Yes, I absolutely think so.
“I can’t think of anywhere where I learned CPR or at the academy where you hit a man, call him a bad name, cut off his airways, get his throat.”
He also said he believed that police had deliberately turned off the audio in the video, saying it would have dropped out “in no way” by itself.
Esqueda described his response to the “disturbing” video in an interview with CBS2
Esqueda initially didn’t want to reveal that he was the person who released the video, but agreed to go on camera days later after Nicole shared her shock at what the footage showed.
The officer said he had “some fear” of being fired for breaking the protocol, but added, “If you see things like this, you have to come forward. You can’t sit there and be quiet because then we’re just part of the problem.
“In light of everything that happened – you know that George Floyd really had a lot of us police officers. When we saw that video, many of us cried.
Lurry, a 37-year-old father of two, is depicted in a mugshot from a previous arrest
“People don’t believe that. But the point is that of the 750,000 there are many good officers. Not everyone is a bad agent. Most of the officers I know were upset by George Floyd. ‘
Joliet’s Mayor Bob O’Dekirk expressed “grave concern” over how the Lurry case was handled last week after watching the video, which he said had been withheld for five months.
“Obviously, there was an inappropriate behavior in that video, however you cut it,” said O’Dekirk. “It was things that police officers should not do.
“It was tragic. It was certainly not necessary. I think everyone can agree, and I can definitely empathize with this man’s family. ‘
O’Dekirk said he asked the Illinois Attorney General to come in and investigate the actions of the Joliet Police Department.
The attorney general’s office has yet to comment on the matter.
Lurry’s family and their lawyer have vowed to hire their own expert to assess the autopsy and plan to file civil proceedings against the police.