News - Joliet and Will County

Joliet police show video connected to Eric Lurry death

The Joliet Police Department can be seen Wednesday, July 1, 2020, in Joliet, Ill.

Joliet police on Wednesday showed video of Eric D. Lurry Jr. in police custody before his death on Jan. 29.

The video was shown to local media as Lurry’s death is becoming a controversial issue at City Hall with Mayor Bob O’Dekirk seeking an investigation by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office into the matter.

Police on Tuesday also showed the video to a group of black community and church leaders.

"They were community leaders from Joliet that we wanted to make aware and inform them of our processes," Deputy Chief Darrell Gavin said.

Lurry is black. The two officers seen in the video are white.

Gavin said the Major Crimes Task Force that investigated the incident has determined Joliet police did nothing criminal, and an independent review of the case is now under final review by the Will County State's Attorney's Office.

The Will County Coroner's Office has determined that Lurry's death was due to fentanyl-induced intoxication and that his system contained 11 times the amount of fentanyl sufficient to cause death, Gavin said.

The video shows Lurry, 37, apparently losing consciousness while sitting alone in the rear seat of a police vehicle while being transported to the station on Jan. 28. He had been arrested at what police said was the scene of a drug deal.

Police in the video can be heard saying that Lurry appeared to have something in his mouth after he is put into the car, and he can be seen regularly chewing before starting to lose consciousness as police arrive at the station.

After a uniformed officer is unable to get Lurry out of the car, an undercover officer comes into the picture and appears to be trying to wake him up.

The undercover officer slaps Lurry at one point and says, "Wake up (expletive)."

The use of the expletive will likely be a subject of an internal investigation, Gavin said.

"It's a police violation. We don't train our officers to cuss at people," he said.

But Gavin said Internal Affairs will need to talk to the officer regarding the reason for the slap. He noted that it can be fatal for an overdose victim to fall asleep, and both officers appeared to be trying to wake up Lurry.

"When the officer is trying to get him out of the car, he's not even able to move his legs," Gavin said. "He can't even talk at this point to tell the officers that something is wrong with him."

The uninformed officer is seen using his baton to probe Lurry's mouth in an apparent search for drugs. When they find them, the officer uses a gloved hand to remove several bags from Lurry's mouth.

Gavin said the undercover officer spotted a powdery, white substance, which police are warned against touching with bare hands because of the potential presence of fentanyl mixed with other drugs.

The two officers also are seen doing sternum rubs on Lurry in an apparent attempt to rouse him.

Gavin said an ambulance was called, and Lurry was taken to AMITA Health Saint Joseph Medical Center sometime before 5 p.m.

The hospital reported Lurry to be in stable condition and headed for treatment in the intensive care unit, Gavin said. At that point, police believed he would survive, he said. But the hospital called shortly before 3 a.m. the next day to tell police that Lurry had died.

Police said they are not making the video public because it will be used as evidence in the internal investigation and could be used as evidence if a lawsuit is brought by Lurry's family.

Police Chief Al Roechner said the internal investigation of a death case follows the independent review into potential criminal wrongdoing by police.

Roechner said Joliet police will review the matter for policy violations but cannot be involved in the Major Crimes Task Force review of the case for potential criminal violations.

"I have to wait until they're done with their investigation," Roechner said. "I can have nothing to do with it. That's state law."

The same video was reportedly shown to the Joliet City Council last week in a closed session where O’Dekirk is said to have urged council members to sign a letter seeking an investigation the the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.

One council member, Bettye Gavin, was among the group of community and church leaders that came to the police station Tuesday to view the video.

This is a developing story. Check for updates.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News