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Bond Set At $5,000 For Bernard Kersh, Man Slammed To Pavement By Police Officer, As Rev. Jesse Jackson Condemns Police Actions

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Bond was set at $5,000 Sunday for a man facing charges of aggravated battery and resisting arrest – after he was slammed to the ground by a police officer on Thanksgiving when police said he spat on the officer.

Bernard Kersh, 29, was charged with one felony count of aggravated battery, one misdemeanor count of resisting police, and one misdemeanor count of simple assault. He also was cited for drinking alcohol in public.

The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. was in attendance Sunday for Kersh's noontime bond hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse.

"It was a case of excessive force. He was thrown to the sidewalk. He cracked his head; perhaps has a concussion because his head still hurts," Jackson said.

Jackson said Kersh would be under 24-hour monitoring at home following the bond hearing.

"He needs mental care. But the police had no basis for throwing him down in a way that could have killed him. We've seen this before, and it must stop," Jackson said. "I hope that the mayor and those involved will move immediately to deal with this police officer and those who stayed silent and did nothing."

Bernard Kersh
Bernard Kersh is charged with aggravated battery and resisting arrest. Police say he spat on and threatened an officer who had stopped him for drinking in public. An officer was caught on video slamming Kersh to the pavement. (Credit: Chicago Police)

Cell phone video shared on social media shows a Chicago police officer lift Kersh off his feet and slam him onto the pavement at 79th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue around 4 p.m. Thursday. Kersh's head slams against the curb, and he doesn't move for the rest of the video.

Police said officers had stopped Kersh for drinking alcohol at a bus stop, and were writing him a ticket for drinking in public, when he spit at and licked an officer's face. The video shows him standing against a squad car, his back to an officer, when the officer picked him up and threw him to the pavement.

CPD described the move as an "emergency takedown." In the courthouse Sunday, civil rights attorney Andrew M. Stroth, took issue with that description.

"This was not an emergency takedown. This was a brutal and vicious attack," he said, adding that the officer involved has experience with martial arts.

"His attack on Bernard could have killed him. Thank God Bernard is going to be OK, we hope. But it's a pattern and practice with the Chicago Police Department and the behavior of the officers. We are demanding that Lori Lightfoot follows through and that there is an investigation into this officer, and someone is held accountable," Stroth said.

Keshia Johnson, Kersh's mother, was in court alongside Jackson and Stroth.

"I just want to say I think this was totally excessive. I think that the officer – I think he went about handling my son the wrong way," Johnson said. "Like I said, he could have killed him. That was a really hard blow to the head."

Johnson also noted that her son has mental health issues.

"I think that the police needs to find other ways of handling people, other than what he did," she said.

Johnson said at the time of the incident, her son had a cup in one hand and his cellphone in the other – and he was actually on the phone with her when the incident happened.

Stroth said in addition to Kersh's history of mental health issues, he is also blind in one eye and posed no threat to the officer.

But the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police said the officer was in danger and had to take action.

"Tried to deescalate, the guy was out of control, he was threatening him, and he did a takedown," said FOP Second Vice President Martin Preib.

The officer involved has been stripped of his police powers while the incident is under investigation by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot tweeted that while the video doesn't show the entire incident, she found it "very disturbing."

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