News - Joliet and Will County

Joliet woman sues officers, sergeant over prayer vigil incident

Lawsuit claims officer wrongfully tackled her, sergeant mocked her

In a series of screen shots from a cellphone video, Joliet Police officers can be seen removing Joshwa Cooley from a dirt bike and restraining Jamaica Morrow on July 9, 2019, outside a South Ottawa Street church in Joliet.

A Joliet woman claims in a federal lawsuit that a police officer tackled her at a prayer vigil and arrested her without justification, and that a police sergeant mocked her when she said she needed treatment.

Konika Morrow, 41, is suing the city of Joliet, officer Adam Stapleton, officer Alan Vertin and Sgt. Javier Esqueda in response to the incident that occurred at a prayer vigil in Joliet on July 9, 2019.

The lawsuit filed June 30 claims Stapleton’s tackle knocked Morrow to the ground and pushed her over a curb, injuring her knee and that he turned her onto her stomach and handcuffed her. When she told Esqueda that she needed an ambulance, Esqueda said, “Get the baby an ambulance,” in a mocking voice, according to the suit.

Morrow’s lawsuit claimed officers fabricated a false report to cover up Stapleton’s “wrongful takedown” of her. The lawsuit said Stapleton, Vertin and Esqueda, acting “individually, jointly and/or in conspiracy,” deprived her of her rights to due process and fair trial.

“Absent this misconduct, the criminal prosecution could not and would not have been pursued,” she said in the lawsuit.

Joliet police Lt. Christopher Botzum did not immediately respond to a message inquiring about the lawsuit Monday.

Morrow was charged with misdemeanor obstructing a police officer for walking toward Vertin “after being told to stay back,” court records show. Morrow’s court case has yet to conclude. The case is scheduled for a pretrial hearing Sept. 3.

The prayer vigil was held for then-missing woman Jasmine Morrow, Konika Morrow’s cousin, outside Sacred Heart Church in Joliet. The vigil was interrupted by officers pursuing an ATV and a dirt bike.

Joliet police said the officers pulled over one of the bikers, Joshwa Cooley, Konika Morrow’s nephew, and a “large crowd from the church came over and told Cooley not to talk to the police, and it was OK to ride ATVs in the street.”

Police said the crowd threatened the officers with harm and made “racial/derogatory remarks” at them.

Jamaica Morrow, who was at the vigil, insisted that did not happen.

Police said Konika Morrow refused to stay back from the officers, yelled at them and “attempted to hit the officer with her arm.”

Her lawsuit said she complied with officers’ commands to back away from Cooley and the motorcycle, but Stapleton tackled her without any warning.

Esqueda has been placed on administrative duties for leaking squad car video of Eric Lurry’s arrest, which has been the subject of protests and a federal lawsuit.

Joliet Police Chief Al Roechner said he opened a criminal investigation when he discovered the leak.

Felix Sarver

Felix Sarver

Felix Sarver covers crime and courts for The Herald-News