The lone Black member of the Eastern Illinois University swim team has filed a federal lawsuit against police he accuses of making him the victim of an unlawful arrest.
According to the Illinois ACLU, on February 24, 2019, Jaylan Butler, 20, was travelling with his team by bus from a college championship tournament in South Dakota. Shortly after 8:00 p.m., the bus pulled over in East Moline, Illinois so the teammates could stretch their legs.
"One of Jaylan’s coaches asked if he would take a photo of a roadside sign for the team’s social media account. Jaylan took the photo and began walking back to the bus. Suddenly, several law enforcement vehicles raced up, and officers exited the cars with their guns drawn. They began yelling and swearing at Jaylan," the ACLU said in a statement on its website.
Jaylan dropped to his knees as police officers pointed guns at him and pushed his face into the snowy ground. He was handcuffed and an officer pinned him down with his knee. Jaylan also said an officer put a gun to his forehead and threatened to “blow his [expletive] head off." The bus driver and the coach told the officers he was a member of the swim team but they didn't care. They kept the innocent 20-year-old handcuffed, searched him and put him in the back of a police car. Eventually, he was released.
Butler said about the incident, “I was scared and depressed. I remember sitting in class the next day, looking at the bruises on my wrists and replaying the events of that night. Now whenever I see a police officer, I don’t feel safe—I feel scared and anxious.”
Butler is suing the officers from the East Moline Police Department, Hampton Police Department and Rock Island County Sheriff’s Department. He is claiming he was the victim of unlawful search and seizure, false arrest, excessive detention, excessive force, failure by bystanders officers to intervene in unconstitutional conduct, and assault.
“What happened to Jaylan is an example of the harmful police interactions that people of color experience far too often, but which receive much less attention,” said Rachel Murphy, staff attorney with the ACLU of Illinois, which is representing the Butler, in a statement. “These officers forcibly arrested and searched Jaylan without reasonable suspicion, probable cause, or any other lawful justification. They never told Jaylan why he was being arrested, even after they realized their mistake. Instead, it’s clear they based their decision to arrest and harm Jaylan on the fact that he was a young Black man."
Read the full lawsuit here.