May 24, 2024
News - Joliet and Will County

'Whistleblower' cop jailed on felony misconduct charges

A Joliet police sergeant who leaked squad car video of an arrested man's fatal overdose was charged with felony official misconduct, court records show. Sgt. Javier Esqueda, 51, was placed on administrative leave in July "due to the fact that he is under criminal investigation and an internal affairs investigation," Joliet Police Chief Al Roechner said at the time, adding that Esqueda "gained unauthorized access to a video that was being investigated by an outside agency in a criminal matter." The video was then "shared outside the police department, violating chain of custody and potentially evidence in the criminal matter.," Roechner said.

The video in question shows Eric Lurry, 37, riding to the police department after he was arrested at what police said was the scene of a drug deal in January.

Lurry's death was investigated by the Will Grundy Major Crimes Task Force, whose findings were forwarded to the Will County State's Attorney's Office.
The video in question shows Eric Lurry, 37, riding to the police department after he was arrested at what police said was the scene of a drug deal in January.

Lurry's death was investigated by the Will Grundy Major Crimes Task Force, whose findings were forwarded to the Will County State's Attorney's Office.
The state's attorney's office determined on July 2 that the Joliet police committed no criminal wrongdoing. The Will County Coroner's Office ruled Lurry's death was an accident and that the "levels or concentrations" of the heroin, fentanyl and cocaine in his body "were over 10 times the fatal range."

Eight days before the state's attorney's determination, Joliet Mayor Bob O'Dekirk penned a letter to Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul requesting an additional investigation. Only three of the eight members of the Joliet City Council signed O'Dekirk's letter.
When asked about O'Dekirk's letter and if It prompted any action, attorney general spokeswoman Tori Joseph said she was unable to confirm the existence of an investigation.

After Esqueda leaked the video, protesters demonstrated throughout the summer at various locations around the city, including outside O'Dekirk's home.
Lurry's wife, Nicole Lurry, filed a federal lawsuit in August against the city of Joliet and four police officers, claiming they engaged in "willful and wanton acts and reckless conduct" that led her husband's death.

On Saturday, Nicole Lurry announced that she will run for a seat on the Joliet City Council in the April election.
Esqueda was still at the Joliet Police Department Wednesday morning, where he was working in the traffic section while he is on administrative leave, a source said.

Esqueda was booked into the Kendall County Jail shortly after 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, records show, and his bond was set at $50,000.
The Kendall County State's Attorney's Office brought the felony charges against Esqueda. Esqueda is a resident of the Kendall County portion of Joliet, records show.

Kendall County State's Attorney Eric Weiss said his office is handling the case because Esqueda gained access to the video remotely from his Kendall County home.
"We believe this is where the crime occurred," Weiss said.

After Esqueda was placed on leave, a member of the city's fire and police board, Todd Wooten, sent an email to the board's liaison accusing Roechner of "blatantly retaliating against a whistleblower, thus tampering with a witness and potentially 'compromising' a case."

"He considers himself a whistleblower and he feels he is being retaliated against as a whistleblower," Wooten said. "What am I missing?"
Sgt. Patrick Cardwell, president of the police supervisors' union, refuted the characterization of Esqueda as a whistleblower.

"Javier Esqueda’s unprofessionalism behavior,and alleged misconduct, will be played out in a Kendall County criminal court room," said Cardwell, who said he was not speaking on behalf of the police department.

"It’s more shameful of the individuals that rushed to judgment that labeled him a 'whistleblower' and 'hero' without knowing the facts of the case," he said. "Those individuals are the ones attempting to change the narrative and distort the truth."
Esqueda breached public trust by leaking the video, Roechner said.

“It is the mission of the Joliet Police Department to maintain the highest levels of integrity and professionalism," Roechner said.

"Sgt. Esqueda’s conduct violates not only the law, more importantly, it threatens the trust and confidence we strive for daily in our service to the citizens of Joliet," he said. "Any negative actions reach far beyond one person, as it affects every member of our organization as well as our law enforcement partners."
Joseph Hosey

Joseph Hosey

Joe Hosey became editor of The Herald-News in 2018. As a reporter, he covered the disappearance of Stacy Peterson and criminal investigation of her husband, former Bolingbrook police Sgt. Drew Peterson. He was the 2015 Illinois Journalist of the Year and 2014 National Press Club John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award winner.