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‘His eyes were just crazy’: Man describes alleged beating by off-duty cop

John Sherwood was hospitalized after he says he was beaten by a Chicago police sergeant, a lawsuit alleges. | Provided

John Sherwood — sitting in a wheelchair with a metal plate and screws holding together fractured bones in his right leg — said Thursday he wished his life could go back to the way it was before the night he crossed paths with Chicago police Sgt. Eric Elkins, a cop with a history of troubles with the law and his own department.

Sherwood was at @mosphere, a gay bar in Andersonville, with friends in late September where several visibly drunk people — including Elkins, who was off duty — were at an adjacent table, Sherwood said at a news conference at his attorney’s office in the Loop.

Sherwood’s attorney, Tim Cavanagh, filed a civil lawsuit last month against Elkins and three other men he was with who the suit says attacked Sherwood that night. It says the men carried out the attack “without provocation and without authorization.”

Video by Ashlee Rezin

“They were doing shots. They started throwing limes at us,” Sherwood said of the incident, which occurred around midnight Sept. 29.

“I tapped one of them on the shoulder and said, ‘Can you knock it off?’ ” Sherwood said. “Nothing happened, and then two minutes later one of them fell into me. I pushed him off of me. That’s when words were exchanged. A scuffle ensued. I was punched in the face by one of the people.”

A bouncer stepped in, and Sherwood, 53, and his partner, Tom Stacha, 44, made their way out onto Clark Street.

“I was the first one out the door, and then two seconds later Elkins was just in a fit of rage. There were people trying to keep him from coming out,” Sherwood said.

“His eyes were, when he was coming out of the bar, his eyes were just crazy,” he said.


• Chicago cop, accused of sex crimes against teenage boys, never been disciplined, Oct. 28, 2018

Sherwood said Elkins kicked him in the leg. He remembers hearing a snap and later — after enduring several kicks while he was in the fetal position — realizing a bone in his leg went through his skin.

Provided by Attorney Tim Cavanagh

Sherwood and Stacha both were punched and kicked during the assault, the lawsuit says.

According to Cavanagh, witnesses identified Elkins as being involved.

The lawyer said he’s trying to get video from inside the bar, which is also named in the lawsuit, that might show the initial confrontation.

No charges have been filed. But the incident is the subject of an internal police investigation, the Sun-Times has reported.

Elkins could not be reached for comment.

In 19 years as a Chicago cop, Elkins has been the subject of 35 internal investigations.

At the time of the attack, police brass were trying to determine whether he should face disciplinary action in an incident three years ago near his boyhood home in rural Michigan. Elkins initially was charged with a sex crime after being accused of touching the penis of a teenager during a family reunion. He ended up pleading guilty in 2016 to a lesser charge, avoiding prison and sex-offender registration.

Attorney Tim Cavanagh (left) and Tomasz Stacha (right) look on as John Sherwood speaks to reporters about his injuries, including a broken ankle. | Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times
Attorney Tim Cavanagh (left) and Tomasz Stacha (right) look on as John Sherwood speaks to reporters about his injuries, including a broken ankle. | Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times

Elkins completed his sentence — including a year of probation — last year. But the Chicago Police Department says its internal affairs bureau still hasn’t finished investigating whether Elkins should be fired or otherwise disciplined.

Elkins, 44, has been on desk duty since police learned of the Michigan incident three years ago.

Fifteen years ago, Elkins was charged with having sex with a 16-year-old boy he befriended while moonlighting as a security guard at Amundsen High School on the North Side — a case for which he was cleared by a Cook County judge and never faced any punishment by the police department. In a previous interview with the Sun-Times, he denied the charges.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi and the Cook County state’s attorney’s office didn’t respond to requests for comment Thursday.

Cavanagh criticized the Chicago police for failing to police their own. Elkins “should have been fired a long time ago,” he said. “It’s time they took action.”

Oak Park police Officer Dwayne Jones also is named in the lawsuit Sherwood filed over the incident at the bar. Jones is an acquaintance of Elkins, according to Cavanagh.

David Powers, a spokesman for Oak Park, said Jones was put on paid leave Oct. 18, pending the outcome of an internal investigation. He said Jones is a probationary officer who began work at the department Jan. 5.

Sherwood and Stacha, a couple for 14 years, said they have been fearful since the beating.

“Someone who’s capable of doing whatever he wants in the bar, on the street — who knows what that person could do to you on a daily basis,” Stacha said.