A Chicago Police officer was released on his own recognizance Thursday for allegedly hitting a man in the head with his metal service baton in an incident that was captured on cellphone video during a block party on the West Side.
Had the July 11, 2014, encounter not been filmed, 10th District tactical Officer Brett Kahn never would have been charged, said Rahsaan Gordon, an attorney for 32-year-old Jeremiah Smith, the man who was struck, and Lisa Simmons, a partygoer whom Kahn also confronted that summer night.
“Some of these experiences are experiences that are known by many communities that have been marginalized for years,” Gordon told reporters outside court.
“. . . This stuff happens a whole lot. Under no stretch of the imagination do I think any charges would have been brought if there was not video presence,” Gordon said.
The video — in which Cook County prosecutors said voices can be heard screaming, ‘He didn’t do s—!’— “speaks for itself,” Gordon said.
In court, Kahn’s lawyer, William Fahy, described his client as a former U.S. veteran who served in Iraq and has racked up “hundreds and hundreds” of arrests since he joined the city’s police department in 2012.
Fahy said Kahn, 31, has been assigned to “challenging districts” throughout his career and is trained and authorized to use his baton when “the situation calls for it.”
“There is no excessive force,” Fahy told Judge Laura Sullivan. “He’s [Kahn] anxious to have his day in court.”
Prosecutors said the officer swung the baton at Smith’s face to deliver a “weighted punch” or a blow to the head.
Gordon, who said he gave prosecutors the cellphone footage two years ago, said he was “encouraged” that Kahn was finally charged with aggravated battery and official misconduct following an investigation with the State’s Attorney’s Office, the FBI and the Independent Police Review Authority.
But because Smith was the one initially charged with battery, resisting a police officer and unlawful use of a weapon, it’s clear law enforcement gets “strong deference when they commit very evident crimes, bold misconduct,” Gordon said.
“This is a tough city. Fighting crimes is a tough job. But at the same time, we have very clear evidence that somebody’s operating outside of the lines. It’s fundamentally important to hold them [officers] accountable. Otherwise, nobody will trust the police . . .” Gordon said.
A $100,000 settlement was reached in a federal lawsuit filed against the city by Smith and Simmons. And Smith, who received 12 days in jail, withdrew his guilty plea for misdemeanor battery and his charge was dismissed.
Simmons, who was arrested for drinking alcohol on a public way, was eventually acquitted.
Simmons was seen on the cellphone video being restrained by Kahn against a squad car before Smith was struck in the 1500 block of South Christiana.
Minutes before, Kahn, who was in plain clothes with his bulletproof vest and badge and his partner saw a large group drinking near a park in the middle of the block while they were patrolling, Assistant State’s Attorney Theresa Smith said.
Kahn said he saw Simmons drinking Remy Martin cognac and took her and another person into custody, authorities said. Kahn went on to cuff Simmons and “slammed her” against the hood of his police vehicle, Theresa Smith said.
Arrest reports indicate Kahn believed Simmons was trying to run away.
Kahn continued to arrest someone else and ordered everyone out of the streets and he can be heard on video threatening to take the revelers to jail.
Then, Kahn grabbed Jeremiah Smith, who was standing near a curb by the park, Theresa Smith said.
Jeremiah Smith tried to pull away from Kahn as the officer held him by his shirt. But Kahn was able to strike Jeremiah Smith, causing him to fall to the ground, prosecutors said.
Jeremiah Smith suffered bleeding, a knot to his head and throbbing pain as a result of the blow, Theresa Smith said.
He can be seen on the video, which was uploaded on YouTube under the title, “Police Misconduct in ChiRaq,” putting his arms up for protection and then in a fetal position when he collapsed to the ground.
Kahn ended up arresting Jeremiah Smith and the person videotaping the assault, Theresa Smith said.
Kahn — who has four unsustained complaints of misconduct — believed Jeremiah Smith was trying to punch him, according to an arrest report.
“In fear of receiving a battery” Kahn “defended himself by using his impact weapon to disable the offender’s delivery system,” the report said.
Kahn recovered a blackjack knife from Jeremiah Smith’s pants, the report said.
But Gordon stressed on Thursday that the only “aggressor” that evening was Kahn.
Theresa Smith added that Kahn’s report contradicted the footage of the cellphone video.
“. . . The victim did not attack, fight with officers, display any weapons, or commit any offenses prior to [the] defendant striking and arresting victim,” the prosecutor told Sullivan, who watched the video in her chambers.
Prosecutors said Kahn was stripped of his police powers.
Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi did not respond to inquiries about Kahn’s status.
Two others arrested that night were charged with resisting a police officer. One person’s case was thrown out and the other got 12 days in jail after pleading guilty.
The other person charged with drinking on a public way also pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two days in jail.
Contributing: Sam Charles