DeKALB – Documents obtained by the Daily Chronicle show DeKalb police Sgt. Jeffrey Weese, the officer a DeKalb County grand jury declined to indict after the controversial arrest of Elonte McDowell, disagrees he placed McDowell in a chokehold during the arrest.
Weese has been identified by documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act from the DeKalb Police Department, the Illinois State Police and the DeKalb County State's Attorney's office.
In his officer report after the arrest, Weese writes he "was able to wrap [his] arms around [McDowell's] shoulder and chest area and hold him on the ground so officers could place him into handcuffs."
Multiple video angles of the Aug. 24 arrest of Aurora man Elonte McDowell show Weese wrapping his arm around McDowell’s neck in what a forensic police doctor has called a chokehold. A DeKalb County Sheriff’s deputy then fired a Taser at McDowell while he was on the ground, rendering him unconscious. McDowell was charged with possession of marijuana with an intent to deliver, and has since plead not guilty, DeKalb County court records show. He’s scheduled for a status hearing Jan. 13. Weese was reassigned to desk duty after the arrest, where he remains pending a departmental investigation which will be conducted by the department's investigative team led by Cmdr. Bob Redel, DeKalb interim Police Chief John Petragallo said.
Weese did not respond to multiple requests for comment. When reached, Petragallo declined to comment.
During a Sept. 9 interview of Weese by Illinois State Police Special Agent Joshua Heer, Weese was asked why video of McDowell's Aug. 24 arrest includes McDowell shouting, "I can't breathe," multiple times as Weese pulls him to the ground in an attempt to restrain him for an arrest, documents show.
"Is there a reason why he would say that?" Heer asked.
"Um, besides just being a huge buzz phrase in media, I mean, that would be it," Weese replied, who throughout the interview maintains he did not prevent McDowell from breathing and only wrestled him to the ground to prevent him from escaping before being arrested.
In cellphone video of the incident, Weese can be seen tapping McDowell's face after he is handcuffed and saying, "You're OK, big boy, it's a nice fake."
In the interview, Heer asks Weese why he thought McDowell was faking, documents show.
"I could see he was breathing from his chest and back," Weese replied in the interview, and then references his children who do the same. "[McDowell's] eyes looked just like my kids when they try to fake sleep."
In dash camera video released by DeKalb police shortly after the August arrest, an officer off-camera can be heard stating "By the way, I did not have my arm across his throat."
During the 45-minute interview, Heer and Weese review the arrest in detail, the investigator asking Weese several times to reiterate and describe how he was holding McDowell on the ground, documents show.
Heer asked why Weese believes McDowell could still breathe fine.
"Because nobody was touching his neck in any way," Weese replied. Later in the interview he says he may have been touching the right side of McDowell's neck accidentally.
The ISP was tasked with conducting an independent investigation into the officer's conduct during the arrest. Documents show they were unable to interview McDowell or his girlfriend at the time, Alyssa Retuerto of Sycamore, because the pair did not return requests for interviews.
The ISP report did not include any determination by investigators weighing in on whether Weese used a chokehold or not.
The DeKalb department's internal review is still underway, and will assess whether Weese broke any departmental policies.