Chicago cops caught on video attacking man in holding cell each have long records of alleged misconduct

Amid calls to fire Officer Enrique Delgado Fernandez and Sgt. Jerald Williams in the wake of the video release, the Sun-Times has found they’ve faced dozens of investigations into their on-duty conduct.

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Video shows Damien Stewart (obscured) struggling with police officers in a lockup in May of 2019.

Chicago police

Two Chicago cops seen pummeling and subduing a man in a holding cell in newly released surveillance footage each have lengthy disciplinary misconduct records, according to a review of investigatory files.

Officer Enrique Delgado Fernandez and Sgt. Jerald Williams have both served suspensions in connection to the beating of Damien Stewart at the South Chicago District in May 2019, but there are now calls to fire the former partners.

It isn’t the first time they’ve faced serious scrutiny for their on-duty conduct, according to reports obtained from the Civilian Office of Police Accountability under the Freedom of Information Act.

Delgado Fernandez has been the subject of at least 29 COPA probes, including 15 cases that remain open, according to the police oversight agency. Williams has faced at least 17 investigations, four of them still active.

In nine cases, they have jointly faced a range of allegations, from disregarding departmental policies to unlawfully detaining suspects and filing bogus charges. But both officers have also faced discipline for their physical conduct, the records show.

Most notably, Williams was caught on video body-slamming a schizophrenic man named Bernard Kersh during an arrest in Chatham on Thanksgiving in 2019.

Williams, a former mixed martial arts fighter, was on patrol with another officer that afternoon when they saw Kersh drinking alcohol at a bus stop in the 800 block of East 79th Street, COPA reported.

Kersh licked and spit on Williams, who responded by picking Kersh up and slamming him to the ground, causing his head to smack the curb and leaving him lying “motionless on the street,” COPA said.

Kersh was arrested, charged and later indicted on felony counts of aggravated battery of a peace officer and a misdemeanor count of battery, court records show. He pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor and was sentenced to 364 days in Cook County Jail, the same amount of time he had already served there.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson personally advocated for Kersh, posting bond for his release and decrying Williams’ use of force. “His slam to the ground was so provocative, it shook the nation,” Jackson said in December 2019.

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Bernard Kersh stands beside the Rev. Jesse Jackson Jr. to address reporters as he left the Cook County Jail in December following his arrest for allegedly spitting on a Chicago Police officer, who then body slammed the 29-year-old, who has a history of mental illness.

Andy Grimm/Sun-Times

Kersh has filed an ongoing lawsuit in Cook County seeking more than $200,000, records show. It names Williams, two other police officials and the city of Chicago.

COPA found that Williams used excessive force while taking Kersh to the ground, but the oversight agency didn’t sustain five other charges, including that he used deadly force and made a false statement.

After COPA recommended a 45-day suspension for Williams, Police Supt. David Brown called for more severe punishment.

“Given the conduct of the officer, the amount of force used, and the manner in which the force was used, CPD believes that the penalty should be more significant than 45 days,” Brown wrote in a letter to COPA in February 2021. “The CPD contends that Officer Williams should be suspended for 135 days.”

Nearly two years later, Williams still hasn’t served a suspension in the case because it remains caught up in “the grievance process,” a police spokesperson said. In that time, he has been promoted to sergeant.

Williams was suspended in connection to another violent arrest in Englewood in February 2018, records show.

He and two other officers were patrolling the 6900 block of South Carpenter Street when they detained a person who ran from them. Williams gave chase and caught up with the suspect, whom he then punched.

As the officers placed the suspect in custody and brought him to a squad car, one of the cuffs came loose and “Williams then performed an emergency takedown and delivered additional punches,” COPA reported.

COPA found the use of force was excessive and proposed a 15-day suspension, which the police spokesperson said was served in May 2020.

As that disciplinary case was playing out, he and Delgado Fernandez came under investigation in a pair of incidents that happened over a two-month span in 2019, including the beating inside a cell at the South Chicago District.

The newly released video shows Delgado Fernandez hitting Stewart with nearly 20-closed fist blows after he was allegedly caught with a gun during a confrontational traffic stop that May. Williams is also seen entering Stewart’s cell and grabbing him as Delgado lands shots during an apparent struggle with Stewart.

The video was made public Tuesday before a City Hall news conference by activist William Calloway, who said Stewart was moved to release the footage after watching the deadly beating of Tyre Nichols by a group of police officers during a traffic stop last month in Memphis, Tennessee.

Calloway called for both officers’ dismissal.

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Damien Stewart (left) listens Tuesday to community organizer William Calloway (right) speak about Stewart being beaten by a Chicago police officer during a press conference at City Hall.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

“There’s no place on the police force …. for that type of uncalled [for] violence on an unarmed man that’s already in police custody,” said Calloway, who helped force city officials to release the video of the police killing of Laquan McDonald. “It’s uncalled for, and it’s appalling.”

Stewart has already reached a $45,000 settlement in a federal lawsuit he filed against Delgado Fernandez, Williams and the city. And both officers have been disciplined.

Delgado Fernandez completed a 10-day suspension last April after going through “the disciplinary grievance process,” the police spokesperson said. That’s half the time Supt. Brown called for and also less than the 15-day suspension COPA recommended for both cops. Williams served out the recommended suspension in November 2021.

Two months after the violent incident in the lockup, in July 2019, Delgado Fernandez and Williams came under COPA investigation again.

During a traffic stop that month in Auburn Gresham, they pulled over a community activist, and Delgado Fernandez was caught on video threatening to write tickets “until his hands fall off” if she didn’t show him respect. No citations were issued.

COPA found that was a form of retaliation, and also sustained allegations that he and Williams failed to complete reports after the stop, records show. The agency sought suspensions of five days for Williams and 15 days for Delgado Fernandez, both of which are being appealed in a grievance procedure.

Meanwhile, they’re at the center of a federal lawsuit alleging they were among a group of officers who forced their way into a West Pullman home with a battering ram and found a handgun. The plaintiff, Raymond Jackson, was “falsely charged” with possessing the weapon found in his friend’s home, the suit alleges.

None of the five officers in the raid were wearing body-worn cameras, according to COPA.

Jackson was ultimately found not guilty in April 2022 after spending more than two years incarcerated or on electronic monitoring, according to the lawsuit. It alleges he was maliciously persecuted, illegally restrained and unlawfully detained.

A COPA probe was closed last October because Jackson and his lawyer hadn’t cooperated. The case was “placed in pending civil suit status while awaiting additional information from the investigation/completion of the civil lawsuit,” records show.

Both Delgado Fernandez and Williams remain on active duty, the police spokesperson said.

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