News - Joliet and Will County

Faith leaders call for Joliet mayor’s resignation

Mayor caught on video throwing man to ground during George Floyd protest

Pastor Warren Dorris speaks to the media Wednesday, Jun. 3, 2020, during a press conference addressing the physical actions taken by Mayor Bob O'Dekirk against a protestor during a demonstration Monday night in Joliet, Ill.

Joliet faith leaders and black activists gathered outside City Hall and demanded Mayor Bob O’Dekirk’s resignation.

"Mr. Mayor, you need to resign," said Bishop Steven Evans of Leap of Faith Ministries.

Evans, along with Pastors Warren Dorris and Herb Brooks, and Bishop Craig Purchase, called for O’Dekirk to step down after The Herald-News published video of O’Dekirk grabbing a man and throwing him to the ground early Monday during a demonstration to protest the death of George Floyd.

O’Dekirk said he was defending himself when he grabbed the man, identified as 23-year-old Victor Williams of Lockport.

As O’Dekirk and Williams go to the ground, video shows another man jumping in to join the scuffle. Evans identified him as Williams’ brother, Jamal Smith, 28, of Crest Hill.

Williams and Smith were both arrested on charges of mob action and aggravated assault, according to police.

O'Dekirk released a statement Tuesday saying the two men were "unharmed." Evans claimed both were hospitalized with injuries suffered during their confrontation with O'Dekirk and police officers.

A second video shows police on top of Williams and Smith while a woman calls out, "They just beating him."

The man who recorded both videos said he was unaware at the time that he was recording the mayor of Joliet.

"This guy, we don't know who he is, I don't know who he is," said the man, who asked not to be identified.

Dorris said the Joliet Police Department has launched an internal affairs investigation due to the footage in the second video. Joliet Police Chief Al Roechner declined to comment on the investigation. Roechner did say the mayor was not at the demonstration at his invitation.

"I received a phone call that he was out there," Roechner said. "My impression was he was out there to talk to people and not for crowd control."

The spokeswoman for the Will County State's Attorney's Office released a statement Tuesday saying the Joliet police have asked the Illinois State Police to investigate the incident.

The state police may be looking into O'Dekirk, but the faith leaders had already made up their minds about the matter.

"The mayor, who formerly was a Joliet policeman, has no police authority and no right to attack anyone," Dorris read from a prepared statement. "In fact, it is this type of behavior that will cause and has caused much uproar in our community since this event."

"I don't think they're in a position to preach," O'Dekirk said when contacted after the gathering. "I was there, they weren't."

O'Dekirk also said Dorris and Brooks were critical of him long before the video surfaced.

"I think those two wanted me to resign the day after the election," he said, adding that he has no plans to resign.

Evans and Dorris also questioned O'Dekirk's conduct during his time as a police officer.

O'Dekirk said in his 10 years with the department, he was never suspended or disciplined for excessive force. He also said he was nominated for Officer of the Year four times and in 1995 won the Martin S. Murrin Labor Award.

The entire city council was contacted about the O'Dekirk situation. Larry Hug said Tuesday he had yet to see the video. Mike Turk declined to comment. Pat Mudron said he wanted to find out more about the situation before commenting.

On Wednesday, Councilman Don "Duck" Dickinson said, "As an elected city councilman, I don't have the authority to act as a police officer. Nor does the mayor."

“What I can do and will do is work with the council to make necessary change to address the systemic racism that plagues our great city,” Dickinson said.

Joseph Hosey

Joseph Hosey

Joe Hosey became editor of The Herald-News in 2018. As a reporter, he covered the disappearance of Stacy Peterson and criminal investigation of her husband, former Bolingbrook police Sgt. Drew Peterson. He was the 2015 Illinois Journalist of the Year and 2014 National Press Club John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award winner.