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Rock Island County Sheriff's Department denies claims of ACLU lawsuit

Rock Island County Sheriff's Department denies claims of ACLU lawsuit

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Jaylan Butler

At the time he was mistaken by local police as a "fugitive," Jaylan Butler was 5' 10" and 160 pounds. The man police was looking for was 6' 6" and weighed 230 pounds.

Rock Island County Sheriff Gerry Bustos said in a news release Wednesday that the allegations that two of his deputies, Jack Asquini and Jason Pena, were materially involved in the alleged forceful detention of Jaylan Butler on Feb. 24, 2019, are without merit.

In a lawsuit filed in Rock Island County Circuit Court by the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, East Moline police officer Travis Staes, Hampton police officer Ethan Bush, and two unknown officers, along with Asquini and Pena, are accused of unlawful search and seizure, false arrest, excessive detention, excessive force, as well as violations of the Illinois Constitution.

Butler, a member of the Eastern Illinois University swim team, was outside the team’s chartered bus in a rest area near East Moline trying to take a selfie in front of an Illinois “Buckle Up, It’s the Law,” sign when, according to the lawsuit, police took him down, held him at gunpoint, handcuffed him and even threatened to arrest him for resisting, going so far as to place him in the back of a squad car.

Butler eventually was released after officers realized they had made an error, though it remains unclear who or what the officers were searching for.

While he declined last week to say what police were doing there or offer any information, Bustos issued a press release Monday saying the incident was related to a manhunt for a fugitive.

In his press release Wednesday, Bustos said that before the lawsuit was filed, the Sheriff’s Department was “unaware that any incident or use of force had occurred.”

After the lawsuit was served, he said a preliminary fact finding was conducted, “which determined that Deputies Pena and Asquini arrived after Mr. Butler had already been detained by officers from other agencies, having only brief interaction with Mr. Butler and the other officers, leaving shortly thereafter to continue the manhunt for a fugitive in the area that was in process.”

Bustos said that, “at this time I am confident that the allegations against Deputies Pena and Asquini are without merit.”

In a separate news release Wednesday, Rock Island County State’s Attorney Dora Villarreal said the “State’s Attorney’s Civil Division is committed to defending the Office of the Sheriff and the deputies involved in this litigation and anticipates that a thorough discovery process will develop a more complete picture of the events that occurred on Feb. 24, 2019.”

Staff writer Barb Ickes contributed to this report.

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