Settlement reached in lawsuit over arrest of EIU athlete


ILLINOIS (WCIA) — The ACLU announced Tuesday that a resolution has been reached in a lawsuit against members of the East Moline and Hampton Police Department regarding their arrest of a Black college athlete.

“We are pleased to announce the successful resolution of Butler v. Staes, et al., a matter first filed in January 2020,” says a statement posted to the organization’s website. “We filed this case after our client Jaylan – an innocent college student returning from a swim meet on his team’s bus – was taken to the ground and had a gun held to his head by police officers.

The ACLU says Butler has filed a motion to dismiss the remaining claims after a settlement was reached with two of the involved officers. The organizations adds that it filed the lawsuit to seek accountability for Butler and raise awareness of how traumatic police interactions can harm people.

The ACLU says it believes that its actions to date have satisfied those goals.

WCIA reported last year that the lawsuit was filed by the ACLU in federal court. It named members of the East Moline Police Department, Hampton Police Department, and the Rock Island Police Department as defendants.

Filing documents stated Eastern Illinois University swimming team member Jaylan Butler was returning from a South Dakota championship tournament with his teammates when the police encounter happened in Feb. 2019. The bus pulled over on a frontage road and several students got out to stretch their legs.

As they were getting back into the bus, police officers arrived and swarmed Butler with guns drawn and pushed him facedown into the snow, according to the docket. Additionally, the lawsuit claims police pushed a knee into his back and threatened to “blow his [expletive] head off” if he moved.

Authorities then realized Butler was not the suspect they were looking for, the document says, but they continued to search and restrain him, and set him in the back of a police car. He was released after providing photographic identification.

The ACLU says Butler was determined to make sure this encounter would not “fly under the radar the way abusive police interactions with young Black men often do.”

“Despite all of the challenges of the last year, Jaylan has remained committed to this quest for accountability – both for himself and for the wider community – and continues to seek to ensure that police officers treat young Black men like himself with dignity and respect,” says the ACLU.

The organization thanked co-counsel at Sidley Austin for their support, along with Butler’s family.

“The memories of that night being pressed to the ground, with officers swearing at me and a gun pointed at my head, will remain with me forever. But I know that unlike other Black men who have been stopped and manhandled by police, I got to go home. For me, this lawsuit has always been about holding the officers accountable for their actions that night. I believe I have accomplished that goal. As a result, I am happy to dismiss the suit and move forward.
I want to thank all of the people from across the country who were supportive of me during this time. I value your well wishes and words of appreciation more than I can say.
The end of this lawsuit is not the end of the fight for police accountability. We must ensure that officers are held to account when they violate someone’s constitutional rights. This is an effort that I will continue to support for the rest of my life.”

Jaylan Butler

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