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Union moves to boot Joliet police sergeant who leaked Eric Lurry overdose video

A Joliet police sergeant charged with felony official misconduct for leaking a video of an arrested man overdosing in the back of a squad car was given notice his union will vote on expelling him from the organization.

Sgt. Javier Esqueda, who was placed on administrative duty in July and has been assigned to work in City Hall, was handed a letter Wednesday notifying him of a Nov. 10 meeting and “vote for expulsion” from the Joliet Police Supervisor’s Association, said Joliet police Sgt. Patrick Cardwell, the president of the union.

Esqueda “engaged in conduct that is detrimental to the orderly operation of the Association, and your conduct is deemed so reprehensible that removal from membership is appropriate,” said the letter from Cardwell to Esqueda.

Esqueda “publicly made slanderous comments against our members on social media and in the press, and our union board has decided to act and bring it to membership for a vote,” Cardwell said Wednesday.

“The last two Chiefs have attempted to hold him accountable but they’ve been shown the door,” Cardwell said. “He might be given a pass or protected status by City Hall, but we’ve become exhausted of Esqueda’s misguided cause and distortion of the truth.”

Esqueda already had gone home for the day shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday, according to the city clerk’s office, where he is assigned to work while on administrative duty. A message left at his personal number was not returned.

The video Esqueda leaked showed Eric Lurry Jr., who was arrested at what police said was the scene of a drug deal, overdosing in the back of a squad car.

Lurry, 37, later died at AMITA Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet. The Will County Coroner’s Office stated Lurry’s death was “accident due to heroin, fentanyl and cocaine intoxication due to Mr. Lurry ingesting large quantities of the narcotics as depicted in the squad car video.”

In June 2020, Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk sent a letter signed by him and three members of the City Council to Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul. O’Dekirk asked Raoul to investigate Lurry’s death, which already was the subject of an investigation by the Will-Grundy Major Crimes Task Force.

In September, Raoul announced his office would conduct an investigation in response to the letter, but not of Lurry’s death. Instead, the investigation would focus on possible patterns and practices of unconstitutional or unlawful policing at the Joliet Police Department.

Esqueda was indicted on the felony charges in December in Kendall County, where he lives. His case remains pending.

Dawn Malec, the first female police chief in the history of Joliet, said she was fired Oct. 6 when she scheduled a disciplinary hearing for Esqueda against the wishes of City Manager Jim Capparelli. Capparelli would not confirm or deny this.

The hearing could have led to Esqueda’s termination.

Within hours of firing Malec, Capparelli had a letter hand-delivered to her with an offer to return to the department under her former rank of lieutenant.

The city’s municipal code requires that discharged chiefs be returned to their previous rank unless they can retire on full pension.

Like Esqueda, Malec was placed on administrative duty and assigned to City Hall.

The police chief before Malec, Al Roechner, retired three days before Capparelli was hired.