CHICAGO (CBS) — A second officer has been relieved of police duties, as the Civilian Office of Police Accountability continues its investigation into video showing an officer slamming 29-year-old Bernard Kersh to the ground on Thanksgiving, after police say he spat in the officer’s face.
The officer seen lifting Kersh off his feet and slamming him onto the pavement near 79th and Cottage Grove on Nov. 28 was stripped of his police powers one day later, at COPA’s request.
On Wednesday, the police oversight agency asked CPD to relieve another officer of police duties while it investigates the incident. CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi confirmed the department concurred with COPA’s recommendation.
“It’s a big decision,” interim Police Supt. Charlie Beck told CBS 2’s Charlie DeMar. “You change an officer’s life when you do this, but the circumstances warranted the decision.”
It was not immediately clear what the second officer’s role was in the incident. Two other officers are seen on the video after the first officer slammed Kersh to the street, but neither was in the camera frame when it happened.
Police have said officers stopped Kersh for drinking alcohol at a bus stop at 79th and Cottage Grove on Thanksgiving, and were writing him a ticket, when he licked an officer’s face, threatened him, and spat in his eye.
Cell phone video of the incident shows the officer lift Kersh off his feet and slam him to the ground. Kersh’s head slams against the curb, and he doesn’t move for the rest of the video.
Police described the maneuver as an “emergency takedown,” but Kersh’s defense attorney has called it “a brutal and vicious attack.”
“His attack on Bernard could have killed him. Thank God Bernard is going to be OK, we hope. But it’s a pattern and practice with the Chicago Police Department and the behavior of the officers. We are demanding that Lori Lightfoot follows through and that there is an investigation into this officer, and someone is held accountable,” civil rights attorney Andrew M. Stroth said.
Kersh’s mother, Keshia Johnson, has said the officer who slammed her son to the ground should be fired.
“I just want to say I think this was totally excessive. I think that the officer – I think he went about handling my son the wrong way,” Johnson said. “Like I said, he could have killed him. That was a really hard blow to the head.”
— CBS Chicago (@cbschicago) November 29, 2019
However, the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police has said the officer was in danger and had to take action.
“Tried to deescalate, the guy was out of control, he was threatening him, and he did a takedown,” said FOP Second Vice President Martin Preib.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot tweeted that while the video doesn’t show the entire incident, she found it “very disturbing.”
Kersh was charged with aggravated battery and resisting arrest in the confrontation and a Cook County judge set his bail at $5,000. Rev. Jesse Jackson had planned to bail Kersh out of Cook County Jail, but was told he is being held on a parole violation.