altercation

Fox Lake Officials Release Video of Altercation Between Cops, Inmate

Officials in Fox Lake, Illinois, released video footage Friday showing an altercation between police officers and an intoxicated man in jail in December 2014.

The four officers allegedly involved in the incident are accused of using excessive force with the man in custody, Jeffrey Grzonka, and violating the department's rules and regulations, Fox Lake Village Administrator Anne Marrin said in a press conference.

A second investigation into the case began in August when it was discovered two cameras had captured video of the incident. Three videos were from the incident were released Friday.

Grzonka, 36, was taken into police custody on Dec. 5, 2014, after officers responded to a call at 16 Lilac Avenue in Fox Lake, Marrin said. Grzonka, who was intoxicated at the time, spit at one officer and made threatening comments as they took him to his cell, she said.

While inside the cell, Grzonka allegedly attempted to cover the lens of the cell camera with clothing. When officers entered the cell, he continued to threaten them and disobey commands, Marrin said.

The videos show one officer shoving Grzonka into a concrete wall and placing his hands on his neck, according to Marrin. While Grzonka was being transferred to another cell, where he could not easily cover up the camera inside, he "made contact with a wall and a door," Marrin said.

"(Grzonka's) disorderly behavior, while inexcusable, did not authorize or justify these officers' conduct," Marrin said.

Prior to Grzonka's release the next day, he was offered medical attention and asked whether he wanted to file a complaint against the officers, and he declined both, Marrin said.

The village administrator said she was not made aware of the incident until March 2015 when former Police Chief Michael Behan told her about it and said one of the officers had been disciplined.

Marrin said the initial investigation was "not as thorough as it could have been."

"It certainly did not justify a failure to report or investigate this incident," she said.

The second investigation included a full review of video evidence, documentation of the incident and witness accounts from the former police chief and the officers involved.

Three officers have been disciplined and suspended for 10 to 30 days after accepting responsibility for their role in the incident, Marrin said. The last officer has refused to accept responsibility, and village officials have been unable to reach agreement on the officer's discipline.

The disciplined officers were identified as Det. Jason Baldowsky, Officer Shane Campion and Officer Eric Ewald.

Former Police Chief Behan resigned in August days after he was put on paid administrative leave during the investigation into the altercation. Lake County Sheriff's Office Deputy Chief Michael Keller was named as interim chief.

"Certainly the events of the last several months in the Fox Lake Police Department have reminded us that we can and should do a better job of fully being accountable to the public. ... I'm also proud to say that reforms at the Fox Lake Police Department are underway," Marrin said.

"Both this incident and the news of the embezzlement scheme concocted by Joe Gliniewicz are stark reminders of what can happen when officers are not held accountable," she said referring to the former lieutenant whose on-duty death made national headlines and was later ruled a "carefully staged suicide." 

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