1 year later: EIU president responds to athlete’s treatment at hands of police

Local News

EASTERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY (WCIA) — The president of EIU has responded to a year-old incident involving a swim team member which has recently regained publicity. Jaylan Butler, the only black member of EIU’s swim team, was allegedly mistreated by law enforcement while returning from a meet.

A message from President Glassman:

As our campus community is now aware, an extremely troubling incident occurred last year involving EIU student-athlete Jaylan Butler while traveling back from a swim meet. Jaylan’s treatment by the police has stirred outrage, as it should. At the time, the Butler family asked for privacy, which the university respected. Today, the Butler family is comfortable with EIU talking about the incident.

Since the moment this regrettable incident occurred on February 24, 2019, our Athletic Department, its staff and coaches have had constant contact with Jaylan, the Butler family and his teammates. EIU’s support has been multidimensional in assisting Jaylan and his teammates with the emotional understanding and healing needed from experiencing such a traumatic event. More recently, EIU has been cooperating with the ACLU in providing information in preparation for Jaylan’s legal case.

Although EIU’s support for Jaylan has occurred mostly outside the public eye and likely will stay that way, I want the university community to know EIU’s steadfast support for Jaylan will continue throughout his journey.”

David M. Glassman
President, Eastern Illinois University

The incident happened while the team was traveling by bus returning from a championship tournament in South Dakota. The ACLU filed a lawsuit in federal court for wrongful arrest on Butler’s behalf. The suit maintains East Moline, Hampton and Rock Island law enforcement officials unlawfully arrested and detained Butler.

Butler’s representatives say when the bus pulled over on a frontage road, several teammates got off to stretch their legs and a coach asked Butler to take a picture of a roadside sign for the team’s social media page. While returning to the bus, several law enforcement vehicles allegedly raced up, officers exited their cars with guns drawn and began yelling and swearing at Butler.

Butler’s attorneys say he reported the officers swarmed him with guns drawn, pushed him facedown in the snow, pushed a knee into his back and threatened to “blow his [expletive] head off” if he moved. The bus driver and coach tried to verify Butler’s identity as a team member.

Despite authorities realizing Butler was not the suspect they were looking for, they allegedly continued to search, handcuff and put Butler in the back seat of a police car, forcing him to provide photographic identification before releasing him.

The allegations include unlawful search and seizure, excessive force, excessive detention and failure of bystander officers to intervene in unconstitutional conduct. The charge maintains officers who did not participate in the arrest knew Butler’s constitutional rights were about to be violated, but did not take “reasonable steps to prevent harm” and failed to act on his behalf.

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