COPA releases trove of videos related to Bernard Kersh body-slamming incident
Kersh was indicted on four counts of aggravated battery to a police officer, court records show.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability has released more than three dozen videos related to the Thanksgiving arrest of Bernard Kersh — the schizophrenic man who, police say, spat in an officer’s face before he was body-slammed to the pavement.
COPA released 37 videos — taken from nearby surveillance cameras, officers’ body-worn and dashboard cameras, among others — that show two plainclothes officers approaching Kersh as he stood in a bus shelter at 79th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue.
The officers remove Kersh from the bus shelter and hold him against the side of their police SUV for several minutes. One officer takes a bottle from Kersh and places it on ground before returning to the driver’s seat of the SUV. An accompanying report also released said it was a bottle of vodka.
After a few moments, the officer returns and appears to take the bottle further away from Kersh.
Though he was still being restrained, Kersh tries to go after the officer who picked up the bottle and returned to the driver’s seat. Kersh then turns and quickly moves his head toward the other officer, who recoils and body-slams Kersh to the pavement.
In another video, a witness, upset at the officer’s use of an “emergency takedown,” can be heard telling a sergeant: “The man spit in his face. Yeah? So what?”
Within minutes, several more patrol vehicles and an ambulance respond to the intersection. Kersh remains motionless on the street. A field training officer eventually picks up Kersh and puts him in the back of his police SUV.
After a few minutes in the back of the police SUV, Kersh begins talking again, saying “I didn’t take s—-” when asked if he’d been drinking.
The field training officer tells one of his colleagues to “Let Sarge know he’s highly intoxicated, but he is conscious.”
The field training officer tells the body-slamming officer’s partner and an EMT that “the only reason” to take Kersh to the hospital would be to perform a blood draw.
“You don’t want your partner getting a package,” the field training officer says, referencing the potential transmission of disease by Kersh’s spit.
The field training officer and his partner then drive Kersh to the University of Chicago Medical Center. On his way inside, Kersh threatens to fight the officers.
The officer who threw Kersh to the ground and his partner have been stripped of their police powers while COPA investigates the use of force.
Kersh, who has schizophrenia, was initially charged with aggravated battery of a peace officer, misdemeanor counts of assault and resisting arrest, as well as a count of drinking alcohol in public.
After those charges were filed, Kersh’s bail was set at $5,000, though he was unable to post the money required for his release from jail because of a hold ordered by the Illinois Department of Corrections.
Local activists, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, were outspoken in their support of Kersh and the IDOC eventually lifted the hold and Kersh was released on bond Dec. 6.
“He should be at the hospital, not [in] a jail cell,” Jackson said last year.
Earlier this month, Kersh was indicted on four counts of aggravated battery to a police officer, court records show.
Last week, Kersh was arrested in the South Loop and charged with battery and theft after he allegedly stole a bouquet of flowers and a bottle of tequila from a supermarket. His bail in that case was set at $5,000. However, his bond in previous case was revoked and Kersh is now being held at the Cook County Jail.
“Bernard Kersh is diagnosed with schizophrenia, he’s got mental health issues that need to be addressed,” said Andrew M. Stroth, an attorney for Kersh. “The Cook County Jail is not the proper venue for a diagnosed schizophrenic who’s been damaged by the police.”