News - Joliet and Will County

Joliet pastors show video from O’Dekirk police days, 2 men taken down

Pastor Warren Dorris speaks during a press conference Friday, June 12, 2020, after a video was presented of former Joliet police officer Bob O'Dekirk jumping on the back of a detained suspect.

Church leaders on Friday said video from Mayor Bob O’Dekirk’s days as a police officer reinforces their call for him to resign after an incident at a Black Lives Matter rally.

The video shows a police officer who appears to be O’Dekirk pulling one handcuffed man to the ground from behind and tackling another man from behind as police were making arrests at an incident in a Joliet park.

Neither man appears in the video to do anything threatening at the time.

"We believe this video shows a standard of behavior as a police officer that continues until this day," Bishop Steven Evans, pastor of Leap of Faith Ministries church, said at a press conference where the video was presented.

They are linking it to an incident that occurred May 31 when O'Dekirk got in a scuffle with two protesters at a Black Lives Matter rally in Joliet, an incident also captured on video.

"We are here trying to give some clarity," said Rev. Warren Dorris, pastor of Prayer Tower Ministries Church of God in Christ, where the press conference was held. "We represent concerned citizens that want to see change in Joliet."

Dorris said O'Dekirk had been invited to join the press conference to explain what happened in the video shown Friday.

The pastors, including Rev. Herbert Brooks Jr., who also is a member of the Will County Board, could not provide the year when the incident on the video occurred. They said it happened at Heggie Field on Collins Street when police saw what they believed to be a crime in the course of doing surveillance.

Dorris said the pastors are in contact with one of the men who was taken to the ground in the video.

He said Joliet police officers also have contacted him and said the mayor at the May 31 Black Lives Matter rally "took over the operations," giving orders to police.

O'Dekirk did not return a call for comment.

But the mayor has defended his actions that night, saying the scuffle with two men started when he was pushed, which caused him to grab one man and pull him over to police before the other joined the fray.

The two men – Victor Williams, 23, of Lockport and Jamal Smith, 28, of Crest Hill – are brothers.

Lawyers for the two men have said O'Dekirk initiated the scuffle by grabbing Williams because the mayor wanted him to walk in the other direction. Smith, they said, jumped in to protect his brother. Neither knew it was the mayor who grabbed Williams, they said.

Both men are black.

They both were arrested, although an independent investigation of the incident is being done by state police.

"If the mayor were black and he got into an altercation with two young white boys, there would be an outcry in this city," Evans said, adding that many people are not bothered by what happened and are "basically saying it's OK. We're saying it's not OK."

The incident occurred as police were sending protesters home after the demonstration had become unruly. Vandalism and looting was beginning to occur in sections of the city away from the protest. Through the night 10 stores were broken into. Thirty people were arrested.

Dorris was a city councilman from 1987 to 2011, which encompassed the time O'Dekirk served as a police officer.

"I do know there was a lot of controversy over how he operated in the streets," Dorris said.

O'Dekirk served as a Joliet police officer from 1993 to 2003. He left to pursue a career in law and currently has his own law firm.

The press conference was the second held by the pastors urging O’Dekirk to resign, The mayor held his own press conference this week at which he said he has not considered resigning.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News