CHICAGO (CBS) — Yet another claim of police misconduct, but, this time, the victim didn’t file that complaint, a fellow officer did. CBS 2 Investigator Brad Edwards tells you more about this twist.
It began at 5 a.m. at the Blain’s Farm and Fleet in Woodstock. A burglary. According to the police report, surveillance video caught the three men and one woman trying to break into a locked gate and their SUV driving off. A call went out to surrounding agencies to stop the vehicle. Later, the SUV was located in Marengo. Woodstock police and McHenry County Sheriff deputies arrived on scene. Three men in the SUV were told to “put their hands up” and walk toward the Woodstock officer’s vehicle. They were handcuffed.
The Woodstock Officer turned on his bodycam.
He asked, “Is there anyone else in the car? Yes or no?”
One of the suspects answered “There should be a female in the passenger (inaudible).”
A young woman, named Andrea Nielsen, was still in the car. She was eventually charged with two counts of theft and one count of criminal property damage. From jail, she called CBS 2 Investigator Brad Edwards and told him, “I wanted to call you so you could be the first one to have the story.”
Here’s more of that story.
Nielsen “appeared to be sleeping,” per the police report, when “I was woke up by the police officers and they told me not to move,” said Nielsen.
That’s when a McHenry County deputy “retrieved the female from the vehicle,” per the police report.
Nielsen described what happened next:
“He called me a b****. Choked me, dangled me by my neck, dragged me to where he wanted me to be and then threw me on the ground. I really thought I might die by his hands that day.”
CBS 2 obtained the Woodstock police officer’s body camera video of the incident. It shows only part of what Nielsen describes. You can hear Nielsen say: “You don’t need to do that” as the deputy wraps his arm around her neck and appears to call her a “B****.” It also appears that the deputy pulls Nielsen up. Nielsen gasps for air and screams.
At that very critical moment, the Woodstock officer wearing the body camera turns away.
Soon after, on the video, you can see Nielsen on the ground, being handcuffed and she said “He was about to choke the f*** out of me. You can’t f****** do that. Carried me by my f****** neck all the way across there. It’s f****** illegal as f***.” The Woodstock officer told her to “Stop.” She said “Call me a f****** b****. That’s what he just did.”
The CBS 2 Investigators identified the McHenry County deputy as Timothy P. Bengtson. Through a public records request we learned Dep. Bengtson was placed on administrative leave on June 25. Not because Nielsen complained. Her lawyer Michael Sorich of the Cavanagh Law Group said “She did not initiate the investigation.”
Documents show it was the Deputy Chief of the Woodstock Police Department who alerted McHenry County authorities after watching the body camera video.
Through the 174 pages of documents returned, CBS 2 also learned more about Dep. Bengtson. Since 1992, he has worked for Metra. He also worked for Lincoln Co. EMS and Dane County Sheriff’s Department in Wisconsin. He returned to Illinois to work for the McHenry County Sheriff’s Department beginning in May 2008. For the past 12 years he has had a relatively clean personnel file, including commendations for saving someone who tried to commit suicide and rescuing an elderly person from a burning building.
Now, the McHenry County State’s Attorney is looking into what happened during that June 17th arrest of Andrea Nielsen.
“You hear a blood-curdling yell coming from my client once she’s placed into that chokehold. It’s fortunate my client isn’t dead as a result of this incident,” said Sorich. “Body cameras are a tool to provide objective evidence to not only the public, but also officials who are tasked with investigating rogue officers.”
Because body cameras are objective, the video can also clear officers. In the Woodstock incident, only one exists; the Woodstock officer’s. In that small far northwest suburban community, all 40 of their officers have body cameras.
Deputy Bengtson was not wearing a body camera because none of the 75 officers have them.
CBS 2 checked in other nearby Sheriff’s Departments and found:
· Cook County has 244 officers and sergeants on the street. 100% wear body cameras.
· Lake County, IL has 145 officers on the streets. 100% wear body cameras.
· Kane County will provide body cameras for all its 64 officers on patrol by the end of October.
· Kendall County just bought a few dozen cameras and will supply those to 20 or 40% of its 49 patrol officers and sergeants soon.
· Will County has 184 officers, and none have body cameras.
· DuPage County has 60 officers on patrol, and none wear body cameras.
For the counties where sheriff’s officers are not wearing body cameras on the streets, the high cost of equipment and storage fees has been cited as one factor. There are grants available, every year, through the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board (ILETSB) Camera Grant Program. Through another public records request, CBS 2 learned Woodstock Police received $43,685 to buy body cameras and in car cameras in 2019. Will County received $160,314 for both types of cameras in 2018 – however, all the 100 of body cameras purchased with that money went to correctional officers. Since 2018 ILETSB has awarded more than $6.85 million to police and sheriff departments across Illinois.
Back to the Nielsen case. On that Woodstock officer’s body camera video, Nielsen said “You didn’t have to call me a bitch and choke me.” The Woodstock officer replied “It wasn’t me.”
The law in Illinois defines a “chokehold” as a technique that “reduce[s] or prevent[s] the intake of air.” It’s considered illegal under most circumstances. The law states “A peace officer shall not use a chokehold … unless deadly force is necessary.”
There’s no indication Nielsen did anything but initially cooperate.
“My feet were dangling and I haven’t seen the video, but I know in the video you can hear me choking and trying to breathe,” said Nielsen.
McHenry County Sheriff had no comment on the investigation into its deputy.