Man Body-Slammed By Police Sues Chicago, Officer – NBC Chicago

A 29-year-old man
who was knocked unconscious when a Chicago police officer body slammed him onto
a street curb sued the city and the officer on Thursday, saying the officer
should have known the maneuver was dangerous because he is trained in martial
arts.

The
officer detained Bernard Kersh at a South Side bus stop on Thanksgiving for
drinking alcohol in public. During the arrest — which was videoed by a
bystander and captured on a police body camera — the officer’s actions left
Kersh with serious head, neck and shoulder injuries, according to the 14-page
filing in Cook County Circuit Court.

Prosecutors
later filed aggravated battery and other charges against
Kersh, accusing him of spitting into Officer Jerald Williams face. During a
December hearing, prosecutors said “a substantial amount of spit” got in the
officer’s eye and some into his mouth.

The
officer is a mixed martial arts fighter, known in fighting circles by the
nickname “Bacon and Eggs” Williams, the lawsuit says.

Kersh’s
Chicago-based lead attorney, Andrew M. Stroth, said Williams’ martial-arts
training made the body-slam maneuver potentially deadly.

“His
body is a lethal weapon,” Stroth said, referring to the officer’s fight training.

The
bystander video released by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability shows
the officer suddenly lifting Kersh high off his feet, then slamming his body
hard onto the pavement. The back of Kersh’s head appears to strike the curb and
he is immediately motionless.

The
officer also threw a forearm strike to Kersh’s head after he passed out, the
lawsuit says.

The
body slam and officers’ response to it, raise doubts about the Police
Department’s commitment to a court-monitored plan to overhaul how officers do
their jobs, Stroth said. A plan approved by a federal judge last year
highlights years of excessive force by officers, especially in minority
communities.

Chicago’s
law department, which would represent the city and the officer in the litigation,
did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.

Kevin
Graham, the Chicago police union’s president, defended the officer in a
December statement, saying “his actions were well within department
use-of-force guidelines.”

Mayor
Lori Lightfoot has also said the investigation of the incident by COPA would be
“comprehensive.” As is standard procedure, the officer was stripped of his
police powers while COPA reviewed the case.

Recently
released police body-cam video shows officers picking up Kersh’s limp body and
placing him in a squad car. One unidentified officer is heard saying emergency
responders heading to the scene should slow down because “nobody’s
hurt.” Another says an ambulance was called for the officer who was spit
on, not for Kersh.

Kersh
was hospitalized after the body slam but discharged hours later. The lawsuit
says an examination determined the severity of his injuries.

Kersh’s
lawyers say their client has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and, in a
condition he had before the body slam, is blind in one eye.

Kersh
had been charged at least 25 times previously, mostly for theft, but once for
punching an officer and once for spitting at an officer.

The
two-count civil complaint asks for more than $100,000 in damages and other payments,
but it doesn’t specify an amount.