- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 21, 2020

JOLIET, Ill. (AP) - A suburban Chicago police officer who made public allegations of misconduct in the death of a Black criminal suspect while in custody was arrested Wednesday, according to Joliet police.

Sgt. Javier Esqueda was arrested and charged with two counts of official misconduct. The charges are a result of Esqueda releasing video that shows the actions of officers prior to the January death of Eric Lurry Jr. while he was in custody on drug-related charges.

“It is the mission of the Joliet Police Department to maintain the highest levels of integrity and professionalism,” Police Chief Alan Roechner said in a statement. “Sgt. Esqueda’s conduct violates not only the law, more importantly, it threatens the trust and confidence we strive for daily in our service to the citizens of Joliet.”

Esqueda, 51, was booked into the Kendall County Jail and later released after posting bond.

Esqueda, who was stripped of his police powers and placed on administrative leave in July, said he released the video because he believed the police department was trying to cover up the arrest. The video shows an officer slapping Lurry, calling him a profanity and pinching his nose shut. It also shows the officer striking Lurry while he was in handcuffs and putting a police baton into his mouth.

After Lurry died, police said officers believed there was a bag of drugs in his mouth.

Esqueda has said officers shouldn’t have taken action that could have cut off Lurry’s air supply, even if he had drugs in his mouth.

“I can’t think of anywhere where I was taught CPR or in the academy where you slap a man, call him a bad name, cut off his airway, go for his throat,” Esqueda said to WBBM-TV in Chicago.

The Will County coroner’s office ruled his death an accident due to heroin, fentanyl and cocaine intoxication, saying that Lurry had more than 10 times the lethal dosage of the combined drugs in his system. The state’s attorney determined in July there was no wrongdoing by police.

Joliet police eventually released three hours of video related to the arrest of Lurry.

Lurry’s wife, Nicole, has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Joliet and four police officers, claiming they engaged in “willful and wanton acts and reckless conduct” that led her husband’s death.

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