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East Moline police chief: allegations against officer 'without merit'

East Moline police chief: allegations against officer 'without merit'

Jaylan Butler

At the time he was mistaken by local police as a "fugitive," Jaylan Butler was 5' 10" and 160 pounds. The man police was looking for was 6' 6" and weighed 230 pounds.

East Moline Police Officer Travis Staes has been named as a defendant in a civil lawsuit filed by Jaylan Butler and attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU,) according to a news release issued Saturday from East Moline Police Chief Jeff J. Ramsey.

The incident involving Butler, a member of the Eastern Illinois University swim team, at a time when Staes was assisting in a search for an armed suspect who reportedly shot at a vehicle on Interstate 80.

"The suspect crashed his vehicle a short distance from the area where the encounter with Mr. Butler occurred and the suspect fled on foot. He was apprehended later that evening," Ramsey says.

"The lawsuit filed by Mr. Butler portrays a version of events that is inconsistent with the version of events we have uncovered in our initial review," says Ramsey, who, because of the lawsuit, was not able to add details. He did confirm Staes had "a brief encounter" with Butler and Staes "handled that encounter properly, lawfully, and in accordance with the policies and procedures of the East Moline Police Department."

Ramsey asks people not to jump to conclusions "based on what has been portrayed in the media and language of the lawsuit. I am confident that the allegations against Officer Staes are without merit," he said in the release. 

Rock Island County Sheriff Gerry Bustos said in a news release Wednesday allegations that two of his deputies, Jack Asquini and Jason Pena, were materially involved in the alleged forceful detention of Jaylan Butler on Feb. 24, 2019, are without merit.

In a lawsuit filed in Rock Island County Circuit Court by the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, Staes, Hampton police officer Ethan Bush, and two unknown officers, along with Asquini and Pena, are accused of unlawful search and seizure, false arrest, excessive detention, excessive force, as well as violations of the Illinois Constitution.

Butler, was outside the team’s chartered bus in a rest area near East Moline trying to take a selfie in front of an Illinois “Buckle Up, It’s the Law,” sign when, according to the lawsuit, officers took him down, held him at gunpoint, handcuffed him and even threatened to arrest him for resisting, going so far as to place him in the back of a squad car.

Butler eventually was released after officers realized they had made an error.

While he declined last week to say what police were doing there or offer any information, Bustos issued a press release Monday saying the incident was related to a manhunt for a fugitive.

In his press release Wednesday, Bustos said before the lawsuit was filed, the Sheriff’s Department was “unaware that any incident or use of force had occurred.”

After the lawsuit was filed, Bustos said a preliminary fact finding "determined that Deputies Pena and Asquini arrived after Mr. Butler had already been detained by officers from other agencies, having only brief interaction with Mr. Butler and the other officers, leaving shortly thereafter to continue the manhunt for a fugitive in the area that was in process.”

Bustos said the allegations against Pena and Asquini "are without merit.”

In a separate news release Wednesday, Rock Island County State’s Attorney Dora Villarreal said the “State’s Attorney’s Civil Division is committed to defending the Office of the Sheriff and the deputies involved in this litigation and anticipates that a thorough discovery process will develop a more complete picture of the events that occurred on Feb. 24, 2019.”


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