Two former Illinois jail guards who were employed by the Lake County Sheriff's Office north of Chicago were indicted October 29, 2014, on felony charges related to the death of a homeless man booked into jail for minor offenses.
Rodney Holmes and Robert Schlesser each face as much as two years to five years in prison for official misconduct, a Class 3 felony, in the Halloween 2011 arrest of Eugene Gruber, who was 51 and had been charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct.
After Gruber allegedly began fighting with guards trying to book him into the Lake County Jail, Holmes and Schlesser disabled Gruber with pepper spray and then threw him to the ground in one of the jail's shower areas.
The "take down," as jail officials called it, resulted in Gruber suffering a spinal cord injury.
Afterward, while ignoring Gruber's complaints about his back, the guards then dragged him through the jail to be fingerprinted and to take his mugshot.
A member of the jail's medical staff—then employed by private healthcare provider Correct Care Solutions, which has since been replaced by another private contractor—later checked on Gruber's condition, but told guards that Gruber was faking an injury, according to jail officials.
Gruber died from the spinal cord injury a few months later.
"When there is wrongdoing, the community expects there will be consequences," Lake County Undersheriff Raymond J. Rose said after Holmes' and Schlesser's indictments were announced. "It's clear here that this was egregious behavior that took place. It was clear on the video what happened. It was clear to the community this is outrageous, and we cannot tolerate this by our employees."
As part of an administrative audit of the incident after Gruber's death, which included a review of jail surveillance video, 15 jail employees were investigated. Three of them – including Schlesser and Holmes—were fired, seven were suspended, and a sergeant was demoted.
New cameras have been budgeted to eliminate blind spots in the jail, and a camera has been installed in the shower area where Gruber was injured. New body cameras—44 total—will also be worn by jail guards.
Following the indictments, warrants were issued for Holmes' and Schlesser's arrests, and their bond was set at $75,000 each.
Sources: Chicago Sun-Times, www.dailyherald.com
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