Lurry's Family, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition Again Call For State To Get InvolvedBy Megan Hickey

JOLIET, Ill. (CBS) — Joliet Police have released four videos showing the moments surrounding Eric Lurry’s death in police custody six months ago.

The videos, released on Facebook and YouTube, total approximately three hours of footage, including one video shown to Lurry’s family in private last week.

As of 6 p.m., we were still still combing through the hours of video. But we’re getting a better idea of the timeline surrounding Lurry’s death.

On Friday, his family thought they were going to get answers when they were invited to watch never before seen police video. CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reports the family said they were disappointed with what they saw.

Eric Lurry’s family said that even though it was a private screening, the videos were heavily edited, to the point that they really didn’t learn anything new. And the family’s attorney can’t tell CBS 2 what he saw because he wasn’t even allowed in the room.

Nicole Lurry gave her impression of the new video footage she saw Friday.

“Nothing that I already didn’t know,” Nicole Lurry said.

The videos released on Tuesday appear to include unedited dashcam video.

The only video the public has seen until now surrounding the Jan. 28 death of her 37-year-old husband, Eric Lurry was a seven-minute video, first obtained by CBS 2 Investigators. It begins with Lurry in the backseat, handcuffed during a drug-related arrest.

At one point, an officer is seen pinching Lurry’s nose shut for a minute and 38 seconds, while another inserts a baton in his mouth. Lurry died in custody soon afterward.

In one of the videos released Tuesday, about 5 minutes into the footage, a uniformed officer tells a woman off camera he thinks Lurry put drugs in his mouth. Another 10 minutes pass before the squad car pulls into the police station, another four minutes until Lurry is pulled to the ground, and six more before an ambulance arrives.

Early in the video, officers are seen taking Lurry into the back seat of a squad car with his hands behind his back. Officers are heard saying Lurry “has some explaining to do.”

An officer goes on to say Lurry “might have put a bunch in his mouth,” referring to drugs.

Soon after that, Lurry is seen chewing on something in the back of the cruiser. About five minutes later, an officer who appears to be on the phone with an unspecified person is heard saying the officers plan to search Lurry before arriving at the lock-up.

When officers arrive at the police station – in a portion of the video that was released previously – the officers they start telling Lurry to get out, but Lurry won’t. That is when a second officer slaps Lurry, holds his nose shut, and holds his neck.

“Hey wake up, bitch, let’s get it over,” the officer is saying upon slapping Lurry. “Open your mouth, open your mouth, open your mouth.”

At 16:54 in the video, the audio abruptly cuts out. The department put text on the screen that claims the wireless mic stopped for some reason and that is under investigation.

Text on the screen also claims the officer slapped Lurry to “get his attention” in an attempt to get him to comply with demands. CBS 2 previously reported the officer’s narrative says it was an accident, he meant to hit him in the shoulder.

Text on the screen also attempted to give an explanation for why an officer inserted a baton in Lurry’s mouth.

“Because overdose victims can unexpectedly bite down when overdosing, the officer was told by a supervisor to use his baton to keep Mr. Lurry’s mouth open to prevent Mr. Lurry from biting down on his fingers while they retrieved the narcotics,” the caption reads.

It then appears that an officer starts pulling something from Lurry’s mouth, at which point Lurry appears to be unconscious.

Another angle is seen from a squad car in the parking lot. Officers are seen getting Lurry out of the squad car about four minutes later – they say at the time, they were performing CPR.

Another officer is seen retrieving a first aid and AED kit from another squad. The officers go on attempting CPR until an ambulance arrives a few minutes later. Text indicates Lurry was still alive at that point.

Lurry had no pulse when the ambulance arrived, and he died soon afterward at AMITA St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet.

More Calls For Illinois Attorney General To Investigate
All of this video is also being released just as the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition Lurry’s family are again calling for the State of Illinois to get involved.

We’ve been asking about an Illinois Attorney General’s office investigation for two weeks after Joliet Mayor Bob O’Deirk sent a letter to the state asking or an independent investigation.

On Tuesday night, Lurry’s family was still waiting for an answer.

“As a nurse, I watched that video and I saw several opportunities where they could have intervened and provided medical attention to save my cousin’s life,” said Lurry’s cousin, Meshona Mitchell.

The shorter seven-minute video of Lurry in custody that was obtained by the CBS 2 Investigators was brought to the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition to Joliet Tuesday afternoon.

“It is unjust, it is wrong, and it is criminal,” said National Rainbow/PUSH Coalition Field Director Bishop Tavis Grant. “Putting a baton down his throat to try to retrieve something is not medically accepted by anybody.”

That’s also what Joliet police Sgt. Javier Esqueda thought.

Esqueda, who blew the whistle on Lurry’s death in police custody, has since been stripped of his police powers and placed on administrative leave.

“Seeing that video was so disturbing, I cried,” Esqueda said earlier this month. “Every day, having to live with that was a hard thing, knowing this administration was probably going to do nothing about it.”

The 27-year veteran told the CBS 2 Investigators in an exclusive interview with Dave Savini that Lurry was the victim of police misconduct back in January.

Esqueda has since been stripped of his police powers and placed on administrative leave. Grant called that unjust.

“A whistleblower not getting any protection, but rather he is penalized and punished for doing the right thing,” Grant said.

The Will County Coroner’s Office ruled Lurry’s death was due to heroin, fentanyl and cocaine intoxication. In light of the tactics displayed in the original video, Lurry family attorney Michael Oppenheimer said an independent pathologist has already begun the process of a second autopsy.

In the meantime, Oppenheimer and community activist Stringer Harris are calling on police to release every bit of information that they have.

Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk has said he is concerned about how the evidence was handled. He said CBS 2 obtained a camera angle he never knew about, and audio is missing.

“Clearly, there was some improper behavior on that video, any way you slice it,” O’Dekirk said. “They were things that police officers are not supposed to do.”

What did Mayor O’Dekirk feel when he saw the video?

“I think it was tragic. It certainly wasn’t necessary. I think everyone could agree with that,” he said, “and I can definitely empathize with the family at this man.”

Mayor O’Dekirk said our investigation into Lurry’s death exposed new evidence that was never turned over to him or city lawyers that handle possible misconduct cases.

The Will-Grundy Major Crimes Task Force investigated the case. But the family thinks the AG’s office needs to step in, as does the mayor.

“It’s unheard that no one in the legal department saw this tape, and then Channel 2 News shows up,” O’Dekirk said at a recent Joliet City Council meeting.

O’Dekirk asked the state for an immediate review back on June 29. More than two weeks later, all the AG’s office will tell us is that they’ve received the letter and they’re reviewing the request.

 

Megan Hickey