News - Joliet and Will County

Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, city, officers sued over May 31 protest scuffle

Illinois State Police still investigating altercation between mayor, 2 brothers

Mayor Bob O'Dekirk speaks to members of the press Tuesday, June 9, 2020, while addressing his use of force against 23-year-old Victor Williams and 28-year-old Jamal Smith on Monday, June 1, after a mob began assaulting police near the intersection of Jefferson Street and Larkin Avenue in Joliet, Ill.

The Joliet mayor is among several defendants named in a lawsuit brought by a Lockport man over an altercation at a May 31 protest that still remains under investigation by the Illinois State Police.

Victor Williams, 23, and his brother Jamal Smith, 28, of Crest Hill, filed separate federal lawsuits in September over the incident that occurred following a demonstration protesting the death of George Floyd in police custody.

A video posted on YouTube showed Bob O’Dekirk grabbing Williams and dragging him away before Smith intervened.

The altercation has led to a lengthy state police investigation, several protests at O’Dekirk’s home, calls for his resignation from several faith leaders and Joliet Councilwoman Bettye Gavin, and now two federal lawsuits.

Williams’ lawsuit against O’Dekirk, the city of Joliet and “unknown Joliet police officers,” said O’Dekirk grabbed Williams “in and around the neck area and about the body and forcefully drove him backwards and subsequently threw him to the ground.”

“At no time did plaintiff undertake any measures to provoke the encounter or actions which took him to the ground,” the lawsuit said. “Plaintiff had committed no crime, was unarmed, presented no threat to any person and was upon public land. There was no justification for the use of force against plaintiff.”

The lawsuit said after Williams was thrown to the ground, officers beat him about his head and body “as he lay defenseless on the ground.”

Smith’s lawsuit against the city and “unknown Joliet police officers,” said he came to his brother’s defense “by making attempts to stop Mayor O’Dekirk’s unprovoked attack upon Victor Williams.”

Smith’s lawsuit also said officers beat him while he was defenseless on the ground.

Both lawsuits said the officers used inappropriate, unwarranted and unjustifiable force; they assaulted, battered, restrained them without justification; and they falsely accused the brothers of engaging in conduct which justified their actions.

Williams’ lawsuit said O’Dekirk also used inappropriate, unwarranted and unjustifiable force and assaulted, battered and restrained him without justification.

“As a result of defendant O’Dekirk’s unlawful use of force, plaintiff suffered damages including pain and suffering and mental distress and anguish,” the lawsuit said.

O’Dekirk failed to return calls on Friday.

Trooper Gabriela Ugarte said the ISP Statewide Special Investigations Unit is still continuing the investigation of the altercation. The investigation began June 8.

“The investigation is currently open and ongoing. At this time, there is no further information available,” Ugarte said.

The investigation was opened after Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow requested the ISP review the incident to “avoid any potential conflicts of interest and ensure a completely transparent process.”

In response to several questions, Glasgow’s spokeswoman Carole Cheney said their office “cannot comment on this matter.”

Glasgow’s prosecutors declined to bring charges against the brothers in July following their arrest by Joliet police.

One of the brothers' attorneys, Lawrence X. O'Reilly, said he contacted ISP himself and was told the investigation is still ongoing. He said the ISP wouldn’t share information on who’s been interviewed and how much longer the investigation would last.

“They won’t share anything with us,” O’Reilly said.

He said their clients haven’t been interviewed a second time.

When asked if the investigation’s length thus far seemed unusual, O’Reilly said, “For the nature of the investigation, yes.”

Felix Sarver

Felix Sarver

Felix Sarver covers crime and courts for The Herald-News