Family sues city of Yorkville after video reveals police taunting man

by: Megan Jones                           The Chicago Tribune


Yorkville woman and her 45-year-old son are suing the city of Yorkville and two of its police department employees after an officer urged the man who was choking himself to “finish yourself off.”

The lawsuit was filed Aug. 29 and The Beacon-News was sent copies of the suit this month by The Blake Horwitz Law Firm, based in Chicago and representing Tad and Charlene Johnson.

The federal suit filed in U.S. District Court charges eight different counts, ranging from police using excessive force to false arrest and malicious prosecution.

Chicago civil rights attorney Blake Horwitz said a planned settlement conference was discontinued and his clients are looking to go in front of a jury to tell their story.

“Clearly what the officers did was horrendous and very intentional misconduct,” Horwitz said. “There should be very significant consequences for their actions.”

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from the city of Yorkville, Sgt. Sarah Klingel and Officer Jeffrey Johnson.

City Administrator Bart Olson said the city does not comment on litigation.

Police dashcam video obtained by The Beacon-News shows officers responding to a disturbance in a residential neighborhood on Sept. 14, 2017, and the situation escalates as Tad and Charlene Johnson go inside their home. Tad Johnson yells obscenities at officers. Officer Jeffrey Johnson then ridicules Tad Johnson, challenges him to “bring it,” and later tells other officers the man is “getting tased immediately — just FYI,” according to the audio.

“Hey, you still live with mom. Bring it. Bring it. Bring it. Bring it. Go ahead, please, finish yourself off,” Officer Johnson said to Tad Johnson, who had run inside his house and grabbed his own throat.

The Yorkville Police Department concluded an internal investigation and on Aug. 2 announced disciplinary measures against the three responding officers. Klingel was fired, Johnson was suspended without pay for 30 days and Officer Christopher Hayes received a written warning.

Hayes is not named in the lawsuit.

In July, Kendall County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Krentz found Tad and Charlene Johnson not guilty of any charges in relation to the incident. He criticized the officers’ behavior, writing they “chose to escalate the conflict by insulting and taunting (a man) who was obviously experiencing emotional distress.”

“The officer came with a specific intention of abusing our client who was obviously suffering,” Horwitz said. “It is the exact opposite of what an officer should do.”

Police were called to the house after receiving a report that a man was arguing with his mother and throwing garbage in the street.

The suit states police had no probable cause to enter the Johnsons’ home and did so without a warrant. The officers had no probable cause to arrest both Tad and Charlene Johnson, the suit argues.

After Charlene Johnson tried to drive away with her son, officers blocked her car from backing out of the driveway, according to reports.

Klingel unlocked the car doors from the driver’s side and officers ordered Tad Johnson out of the car.

He resisted, and Officer Johnson tased him, the officer wrote in his report. Tad Johnson was eventually handcuffed, the officer said.

The suit also says there was no reason for Tad Johnson to be tased because he did not pose any threat to the officers.

Officers had previous encounters with Tad Johnson, who has criminal convictions for drug possession, retail theft, DUI and domestic battery, records show.

Tad Johnson was arrested Nov. 20 after he allegedly threw hammers at his neighbor and trash in the street.

The suit also names Klingel for failing to intervene and stop the use of force on Tad Johnson.

Shortly after Klingel arrived on the scene Officer Johnson told her “(the man) wants to fight,” according to the audio.

Klingel replied, “Rock and roll.”

“Guess what? We’re breaking in the (expletive) door. Bring it on, bring it on,” Klingel said according to the audio, followed by the officers making an unsuccessful attempt to knock down the door.

The officers later said they were concerned about the man’s mental health and the safety of his mother, according to police reports.

A status hearing on the lawsuit is set for March 5 in U.S. District Court.