News - Joliet and Will County

Attorney claims Joliet police ‘covered up the murder of Eric Lurry’

Attorney of Lurry’s family says he plans to have a second autopsy done

Eric Lurry Jr.'s widow Nicole Lurry (left), attorney Michael Oppenheimer and activist Victor "Stringer" Harris at a news conference on July 15, 2020 at the Joliet Police Department.

The attorney for the family of Eric Lurry said he hired a medical examiner to perform a second autopsy on him and he will hire experts to examine the police videos of his arrest.

At a news conference Wednesday, attorney Michael Oppenheimer said the Joliet police released on Tuesday “what we hope is the remainder of the video” of Lurry’s arrest but he claimed the police “have stonewalled this case, they have covered up, they have hidden, they have refused to release the video, they have refused to talk to the family until recently, they have refused to talk to me the entire time.”

“They have covered up the murder of Eric Lurry,” Oppenheimer said.

Joliet Police Chief Al Roechner did not respond to a message and calls Wednesday on Oppenheimer’s statements. Roechner said in a statement previously he condemns the “false narrative” that video evidence was withheld and the police were “covering up evidence.”

Lurry’s death in January was investigated by the Will Grundy Major Crimes Task Force, Will County Coroner’s Office and the Will County State’s Attorney. The coroner’s office determined Lurry’s death was an “accident due to heroin, fentanyl and cocaine intoxication” and State’s Attorney Glasgow said his death “did not result directly from any action or inaction” by officers at the scene.

Joliet police released four videos on YouTube of Eric Lurry's arrest. One video contained the police's summary of the videos while two others showed what occurred inside and outside the squad car where Lurry was held. A third soundless video was from another squad car that followed the car Lurry was inside of.

Oppenheimer called attention to the part of two videos where the sound is off at the 16:55 minute mark, where two officers are trying to open Lurry’s mouth to retrieve the drugs. The sound resumes at the 34 minute mark.

“We can only imagine what these white police officers said to this African-American man as he laid potentially dying in the back seat of a squad car when they turned off the video,” Oppenheimer said.

Joliet police said an officer’s “wireless microphone stopped recording audio on the in-car video system” and that “this issue is currently under investigation.”

Roechner did not respond to a message and calls Wednesday about sound issues with the videos.

Glasgow’s spokeswoman Carole Cheney said “the videos in their entirety” were considered in the course of the state’s attorney investigation, along with other materials. She said a medical pathologist reviewed the videos and all other materials in the investigation.

“We looked at everything, but ultimately the cause of death was the drugs he chose to ingest,” Cheney said.

In response to questions on the sound issue, task force Chairman Ken Kroll said he didn’t have any additional information or input regarding the audio. He said the task force worked in conjunction with the state’s attorney’s office and coroner’s office regarding the investigation “as a whole,” including the videos.

“Respectfully, we’re probably not going to make any further comment on this case,” Kroll said. “The state’s attorney’s office and the coroner’s office have weighed in with their determinations.”

Oppenheimer said an officer stuck a baton down Lurry’s throat but the videos did not show the baton going beyond the inside of his mouth.

Lurry’s widow, Nicole Lurry, said “the officers had no right to do what they did to my husband.” She was in tears when she said she wants justice for him.

“I don’t want to wait. I want it now,” she said. “I want justice for my husband Eric.”

Felix Sarver

Felix Sarver

Felix Sarver covers crime and courts for The Herald-News