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Crime & Courts

DeKalb officer reassigned pending investigation into Saturday arrest of Aurora man

Video shows man yelling 'I can't breathe' as DeKalb police officer wraps arms around his neck

DeKALB – A DeKalb police officer shown on video with his arms wrapped around the neck of a man during an arrest over the weekend has been temporarily reassigned to administrative duties while his actions are reviewed in an investigation.

A news release from DeKalb interim Police Chief John Petragallo said that the department is reviewing all footage and statements from the incident and is asking the Illinois State Police to conduct an independent review.

The video, first shared by NBC 5 Chicago, shows Elonte Y. McDowell, 25, of Aurora on the ground with an unidentified DeKalb police officer wrapping his arms around McDowell’s neck while another officer tries to handcuff him and a DeKalb County Sheriff’s deputy tases McDowell.

“I can’t breathe,” McDowell is heard shouting as a DeKalb police officer wraps his arm around McDowell’s neck on the ground. “Record this, babe. Record this.”

The cellphone video was taken by Alyssa Retuerto, McDowell’s girlfriend, and posted on social media, where it went viral Tuesday.

Retuerto can be heard from behind the camera reassuring McDowell, saying, “Babe, I got this, just be cool. Don’t move.”

On Saturday, McDowell was pulled over shortly after noon in the
1100 block of Lincoln Highway, according to DeKalb County court records.

Police dogs indicated that drugs might be in the car and, after a search, police said they found a bag containing between 1 and 3.5 ounces of marijuana, according to court documents.

According to the release, DeKalb police said it was an investigative stop based on intelligence they had received that claims McDowell was transporting “a load of drugs.” When police tried to place McDowell under arrest, he tried to get away, according to the release.

Police said the bag and drugs matched those McDowell was promoting in a video on Snapchat, according to court documents.

Throughout the video, McDowell asks DeKalb police officers why he is being detained.

The video shows DeKalb Patrol Officer Geoffrey Guzinski responding.

“You’re being detained,” Guzinski said in the video. “If you prefer to go in handcuffs, I can do that for you. You’re banned from the property because you were given a trespass notice, that’s why.”

McDowell then argues that police pulled him over in Lincoln Towers, 1100 W. Lincoln Highway, but the officer says he doesn’t know why McDowell didn’t pull over on the side of the road instead of turning into the Lincoln Towers parking lot. Court records show McDowell was banned from the property in November 2018. In the video, McDowell says he used to live at Lincoln Towers.

DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott confirmed that the taser was used by one of his deputies.

“Oh my God, what the f--- are you doing that for?” Retuerto screams as her boyfriend is tasered. “He’s in a f------ choke hold and you just tased him? For what? For what?”

McDowell appears to lose consciousness after being tased, and Retuerto walks over and rubs his face, telling him, “I love you.”

A DeKalb police officer then taps McDowell’s face and says, “You’re OK, big boy. It’s a nice fake,” and then asks Retuerto to step away and not impede the investigation.

Moments later, she asks tearfully, “He has a pulse, right? Like, you guys can make sure he has a pulse? ’Cause look at his face.”

Scott said McDowell also was treated by paramedics in the parking lot of Lincoln Tower, then DeKalb police drove him to the DeKalb Police Station for processing, after which McDowell was taken to the DeKalb County Jail. According to a DeKalb police news release, McDowell refused treatment at the scene.

“Our deputy was there (with our K-9) in an assist capacity for exterior drug search of a vehicle DeKalb had stopped,” Scott said. “Our officer did activate his taser, upon which the struggle ended.”

During a post-arrest interview with DeKalb police, McDowell said the marijuana was his, according to court documents.

McDowell was charged with unlawful possession of marijuana, unlawful possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, criminal trespass to property and resisting a police officer.

If convicted of the most serious charge of unlawful possession with intent to deliver, McDowell could face up to five years in prison.

McDowell was released from jail Monday on his signature.

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