Disabled man files excessive force suit against JPD

By Nick Kovatch on October 9 at 7:43am

A disabled man claims Jacksonville Police used excessive force during his arrest last year.

Fifty-three-year-old Steven Elsome filed a federal lawsuit against the city claiming his Fourth Amendment rights were violated. The filing, which only represents one side of the claim, states Elsome suffered injuries that required treatment at a hospital in Springfield.

Elsome was arrested in May of 2012 for aggravated battery of a police officer, resisting a police officer and theft. The theft stemmed from Elsome stealing a puppy a few days before his arrest. Elsome claimed in the lawsuit he took the dog because it was being neglected.

Police said Elsome kicked an officer during his arrest. At the time of the incident officers said Elsome was taken to Passavant Area Hospital before being transferred to St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, but did not disclose how he was injured.

Elsome pleaded guilty to the theft earlier this year and the battery charges were dismissed.

The lawsuit says Jacksonville Police officer Sean Haefeli went to Elsome’s residence to investigate the theft. The suit states that when Haefeli arrived at Elsome’s residence, Elsome opened the door and told the officer he didn’t want to talk about the allegations.

The complaint says “As soon as [Elsome] turned to go back in, Haefeli violently grabbed [Elsome] and slammed him to the ground.”

In the lawsuit, Elsome claims his face was shoved into the carpet and his bare feet were struck by Haefeli. The filing says Elsome suffered a laceration to his forehead and a tear on his eyelid.

An ambulance was called to Elsome’s residence, and the suit says Haefeli ordered Elsome to get up and walk out of the complex, but Elsome explained that he was disabled and could not walk that far. According to the lawsuit, Elsome also explained that he thought his foot was broken as a result of Haefeli striking it.

The filing alleges Haefeli and another officer dragged Elsome down the hall and sat him outside.

Elsome is represented by attorney, Louis J. Meyer of Meyer & Kiss in Peoria. The lawsuit argues Elsome’s treatment is part of a pattern of excessive force by Jacksonville Police. It claims there is a practice of “preparing false and incomplete police reports, and/or not preparing police reports to cover up police misconduct including unconstitutional searches and seizures.”

The suit also contends there is a failure to adequately investigate citizen complaints against police officers and adequately discipline police officers for misconduct.

A jury trial has been requested.