An Aurora, Illinois couple have hired a lawyer after police are accused of using a choke hold and taser on a suspect believed to be in possession of “loads of drugs,” which was actually around an ounce of marijuana.
Alyssa Retuerto’s video begins with her boyfriend Elonte Y. McDowell on the ground with an officer’s arm clenched tightly around his neck. Another Dekalb Illinois police officer is on his knees holding McDowell down. A female officer is standing by. And another law enforcement officer, a sheriff’s deputy, is seen in the right of the screen with a Taser in hand and a German Shepard K9 also on the scene.
All the while, McDowell, 25, is struggling to free himself and can be heard saying, “I can’t breathe …Record this, babe. Record this.”
Retuerto says, “I got it on record but just be cool, babe.”
Seconds later, McDowell is fired on with a stun gun by the sheriff’s deputy even as he’s in a DeKalb police officer’s choke hold.
“Oh my God, what the f— are you doing that for? He’s in a f*****g choke hold and you just tased him? For what? For what,” Retuerto cries out.
In the video, the officer is seen rolling him over and pressing his forearm on McDowell’s head as he says, “Put you hands behind your back.” But McDowell appears to lose consciousness. Retuerto goes directly to her boyfriend on the ground as she records and caresses his face, repeating “Baby, baby, I love you so much.”
The officer that had McDowell in the choke hold lightly smacks his face while saying, “You’re OK, big boy. It’s a nice fake.”
The cop then tells Retuerto to “back up, don’t impede my investigation.” Off camera an officer says to her, “Do you not understand that I have a dog in my hand and he will bite you.” An officer is heard saying “get a hold of her,” and to Retuerto directly, “You’re not free to leave right now. Do you understand?” She is compliant..
But McDowell appears not to be moving and Retuerto can be heard crying: “He has a pulse, right? Like, you guys can make sure he has a pulse? ’Cause look at his face.”
McDowell was not seriously injured and police said he refused medical treatment after the arrest.
The officer who is seen with his arm around McDowell’s neck has been put on desk duty as the incident is investigated.
In a Facebook message exchange with Heavy, Retuerto said she and McDowell hired a lawyer.
Here’s the video and what you need to know:
1. Alyssa Retuerto Captioned the Video of her Boyfriend’s Violent Arrest, ‘For You Guys to Decide. Right or Wrong?’
Late Saturday morning Aug. 24, Aurora, Illinois resident McDowell was pulled over by police in DeKalb. A K9 altered to the smell of marijuana and cops searched the car and then began a custodial arrest. Court records show that in the vehicle McDowell was driving there was more than one ounce of marijuana.
McDowell’s girlfriend and mother of the couple’s young daughter begins filming the arrest once her boyfriend is on the ground with a police officer’s forearm clenched around he 25-year-old’s neck.
Among the thousands of comments on the video seen by tens of thousands and shared widely is one refrain: a choke-hold and tasing in a car stop for alleged trespassing and marijuana possession is an example of police excessive force on people of color. Others claim that McDowell was probably dealing pot and cops were doing their job. Indeed, police claim that McDowell posted his product to Snapchat. But that opinion was not only not widely shared, but was shut down by hundreds of comment replies.
2. Police Claim McDowell Was Trespassing, Had Marijuana in His Car & Resisted Arrest & That’s Why he was Restrained & Tased
Police claim McDowell tried to run after a being pulled over and a K9 alerted to the smell of marijuana. Retuerto’s video does not show the encounter before McDowell is seen on the pavement in a choke-hold.
According to a press release police posted to Facebook, police got a tip that McDowell was driving to DeKalb with a “load of drugs.” The tipster said he’d be “driving a tan Chevy Malibu and accompanied by a white female with long brown hair.”
So police were looking for McDowell.
“Officers located the vehicle described entering DeKalb and performed an investigative stop based on the intelligence received. Also present in the vehicle was McDowell’s girlfriend who matched the description provided,” police wrote.
Now, police claim that officers asked McDowell to get out of the car, which he did, and an “open-air sniff” was performed by a K-9 that alerted on the odor of pot.
Police wrote, “Officers informed McDowell that he was under arrest and approached McDowell to place him into handcuffs. Upon doing so, McDowell attempted to flee. Officers attempted to restrain McDowell, who continued to resist their efforts to place him into handcuffs. During this encounter, a Taser was deployed to gain McDowell’s compliance. Officers placed McDowell into handcuffs and called for an ambulance to check on him. McDowell refused medical treatment.”
In a separate report, DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott said it was one of his deputies who tased McDowell.
Scott also said, despite DeKalb police stating otherwise, McDowell was treated by paramedics at the scene.
3. McDowell Was Charged With Resisting Arrest, Trespassing & Pot Possession & the ‘Intent’ to Sell
McDowell was charged with Unlawful Possession of Cannabis with the Intent to Deliver, Unlawful Possession of Cannabis, Criminal Trespass to Property, and Resisting a Peace Officer.
Police said that he had between one ounce and up to 3.5 ounces. Illinois state law describes weight in grams and possession of 30 to 100 grams (with 28 grams in an ounce) is a felony punishable by a year in jail. Intent to sell that amount can lead to from two to five years in prison.
In a separate video, McDowell asks DeKalb police officer Geoffrey Guzinski why he is being detained.
“You’re being detained. If you prefer to go in handcuffs, I can do that for you. You’re banned from the property because you were given a trespass notice, that’s why.”
In a news report, a property manager tells a reporter there’s no record of McDowell being currently banned from Lincoln Towers housing property, though it was reported he was in the month of November of 2018, which is where McDowell pulled in when police hit lights and sirens.
McDowell was released from jail on his own recognizance.
4. DeKalb Police Chief Said State Police Will Conduct an Investigation & the Officer Who Had McDowell in a Choke Hold is on Desk Duty
DeKalb Police Chief John Petragallo said the department is “reviewing all available video footage and statements regarding the use of force in this incident.”
“The DeKalb Police Department has contacted the Illinois State Police requesting they conduct an independent review of this incident. At this time, the officer involved in this incident has been temporarily reassigned to administrative duties,” Petragallo said.
In an addendum to its press release on Facebook, police noted that the information they have provided is “the best information available …(and) statements regarding the conduct of any person identified above are allegations until affirmatively proven in court. All persons are presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
On the DeKalb police social media post, some praised police and others, while agreeing that addressing alleged drug crimes was a good thing, the level of force used in the arrest was inappropriate at best.
“Chokeholds are still banned and the video clearly shows excessive use of force. Your officers were unprofessional and escalated the situation instead of deescalating it. This release shows no compassion for the man who was assaulted by your officers. And now hearing that these officers are not being reprimanded seems like you encourage this hyper aggressive behavior from your employees which is an even bigger red flag. Your community is now fearful of the people who swore to protect us.
5. McDowell Has an Arrest Record in DeKalb County With Some Cases Dropped By Prosecutors & a Not Guilty Verdict By a Jury
Cases including an order of protection and a domestic violence case filed by DeKalb police where at trial, a jury found him not guilty. He had a disorderly conduct arrest by DeKalb police that prosecutors dropped. He was charged with misdemeanor battery in 2018 with charges dropped. On Monday, two days after the violent arrest, McDowell was in court on an early 2019 charge of misuse of a debit or credit card. Later that day, his girlfriend posted the video to Facebook.
McDowell’s lawyer Antonio Jeffrey told Heavy that it plans to investigate what happened as law enforcement does the same. And will afterward “provide additional comments.” For now, he said, “What happened to our client, Elonte McDowell, was completely unlawful, unjustified, and we believe racially motivated. As a result, and in addition to the physical trauma, he has experienced flashbacks and nightmares on a frequent basis, and has heightened anxiety in the presence of law enforcement officials. Please know that at the proper time we will seek any and all remedies available to Mr. McDowell under the law against the individuals and entities involved.”