Government

O’Dekirk claims scuffle video ‘tampered with’

State police investigation produced few accounts of what happened beyond video of May 2020 incident

Joliet Mayor Bob O'Dekirk scuffling at a demonstration protesting the death of George Floyd.

The state police investigation into Mayor Bob O’Dekirk’s scuffle with two protesters did not appear to produce much more clarity about what happened than a video made public days after the May 31, 2020 incident.

Prosecutors for a second day did not return phone calls seeking confirmation that they are not pursuing criminal charges against the mayor, although state police have said the case is closed, O’Dekirk claims to have been “cleared of any wrongdoing,” and an attorney for the protesters said he has a letter stating criminal charges will not be filed against the mayor.

The 259-page case file released by state police on Wednesday lists 20 witnesses, including 12 police officers, but only four give an account of the initial contact between the mayor and protester Victor Williams that sparked the incident, and two of them are from O’Dekirk and Williams.

Mayor Bob O'Dekirk speaks at a press conference Tuesday

The report includes a detailed account of what is in the video.

O’Dekirk claims that the video was altered.

“The video you have seen has been tampered with,” O’Dekirk said Wednesday when asked about apparent inconsistencies between his accounts of what happened and what was in the video.

Joliet Mayor Bob O'Dekirk (left) grabbing Victor Williams by the collar at a May 31 protest in Joliet.

O’Dekirk would not discuss why he initially said he had been pushed by Williams when asked about the incident days after it happened, but told state police later that he grabbed Williams because the protester had raised a clenched fist toward his face and he felt threatened.

“There are no different versions of events,” O’Dekirk said.

In the account provided to state police, O’Dekirk does not say he was ever pushed by Williams.

Victor Williams (center) at a press conference outside Joliet City Hall Monday. Williams was arrested after he was confronted and grabbed by Joliet Mayor Bob O'Dekirk at a Black Lives Matter demonstration May 31.

“O’Dekirk saw Williams’ right fist approach his face, and he thought he was going to receive a battery,” states the police report from a July 14 interview with the mayor. “O’Dekirk said his ‘police training’ kicked in, and he defended himself from receiving a battery when he pushed Williams’ hands down with both of his hands and grabbed Williams jacket. O’Dekirk walked Williams towards other JPD officers in the Silver Spoon parking lot.”

O’Dekirk is a former Joliet police officer and was wearing a police issued Joliet Police Department baseball cap while telling people to go home before the encounter with Williams near the Silver Spoon Restaurant on Jefferson Street.

One of the witnesses describing the initial contact was Rastarcia Thompson, who took the YouTube video.

More than a dozen protestors protested Mayor Bob O'Dekirk and demanded his resignation Tuesday, Jun. 9, 2020, after a press conference addressing O'Dekirk's use of force against 23-year-old Victor Williams and 28-year-old Jamal Smith on June 1, after a mob began assaulting police near the intersection of Jefferson Street and Larkin Avenue in Joliet, Ill.

The police report states that Thompson turned his cell phone camera to the incident when he heard someone say, “I’m going to my brother.”

“As Thompson turned to the voice, he saw O’Dekirk grab Williams and head towards a group of parked JPD squads in the Silver Spoon Restaurant parking lot,” the police report states.

Williams told police he was trying to explain to O’Dekirk, who was telling him he could not go in the direction he was headed, that he needed to get to his ride away from the scene when the mayor grabbed him.

Jamal Smith and Victor Williams pose for a portrait Monday, Jun. 8, 2020, in front of city hall in Joliet, Ill.

Police also interviewed Marianna “Mady” Perez who, the report states, “observed Williams deliberately push O’Dekirk with intent and purpose, and O’Dekirk stumbled back a few steps.”

There is nothing in the police interview with O’Dekirk indicating that he claimed to have been pushed or to have stumbled.

The sometimes second-by-second police description of the video notes that it is taken from behind Williams and shows him “directly in front of O’Dekirk.”

Joliet Mayor Bob O'Dekirk

“The video shows Williams, while moving to his left, and O’Dekirk, while moving to his right, again appear face-to-face,” the police description continues. “O’Dekirk grabs Williams near the chest area of his jacket. The video shows O’Dekirk, while he still holds Williams, spin and push him to his (O’Dekirk) left.”

Perez has appeared at City Council meetings and made critical remarks about O’Dekirk. The mayor told state police that “she doesn’t like him,” according to the report from the interview.

Perez also has a son who was represented by attorney Jeffrey Tomczak in a murder case in which the charges against her son were dropped. Tomczak also represented O’Dekirk in the state police investigation. Police interviewed O’Dekirk at Tomczak’s law office.

Mady Perez speaks to the Joliet City Council on Tuesday at City Hall in Joliet.

The police synopsis of witness interviews was written on Oct. 15, indicating the investigation may have been essentially wrapped up by then. Police and prosecutors have refused to comment on the investigation for months, pointing to a court-ordered seal put on the case.

State police this week said they were releasing the investigation file after declaring the case closed on May 25.