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Illinois Attorney General's Office Holds Virtual Town Hall As It Begins Investigation Into Death Of Eric Lurry In Joliet Police Custody

JOLIET, Ill. (CBS) -- CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini was the first to expose the controversial death of Eric Lurry in the custody of Joliet police.

Now, the Illinois Attorney General's office is making good on a promise to investigate.

The Attorney General's office held a virtual town hall Thursday night, where members of the public submitted questions.

It is often the coverup that gets police departments in trouble, and in this case, audio was tampered with and video concealed until a whistleblower came forward. That whistleblower was Joliet police Sgt. Javier Esqueda.

"What I want to come out of this is transparency; the honesty, integrity that goes with the badge," Esqueda said earlier this month.

The sergeant, now on desk duty, said he wants the Joliet Police Department to come clean on what he calls a culture of coverups - including the one on which he blew the whistle on last year.

Video shows officers taking Lurry into the back seat of a squad car with his hands behind his back in January 2020. Officers are heard saying Lurry "has some explaining to do."

Joliet Police Department - Eric Lurry Death Investigation by Joliet Police Department on YouTube

An officer goes on to say Lurry "might have put a bunch in his mouth," referring to drugs.

Soon after that, Lurry is seen chewing on something in the back of the cruiser. About five minutes later, an officer who appears to be on the phone with an unspecified person is heard saying the officers plan to search Lurry before arriving at the lock-up.

When officers arrive at the police station – in a portion of the video that was released previously – the officers then start telling Lurry to get out, but Lurry won't. That is when a second officer slaps Lurry, holds his nose shut, and holds his neck.

"Hey wake up, bitch, let's get it over," the officer is saying upon slapping Lurry. "Open your mouth, open your mouth, open your mouth."

At 16:54 in the video, the audio abruptly cuts out. The department put text on the screen that claims the wireless mic stopped for some reason and that is under investigation.

Text on the screen also claims the officer slapped Lurry to "get his attention" in an attempt to get him to comply with demands. CBS 2 previously reported the officer's narrative says it was an accident, he meant to hit him in the shoulder.

Text on the screen also attempted to give an explanation for why an officer inserted a baton in Lurry's mouth.

In an interview with Esqueda last year, Savini asked him what the hardest part of watching that video was.

Esqueda's answer was, "The hardest part watching that video was watching another fellow sergeant slap him and calling him a bitch on that video – then going straight for his nose, cutting off his airway."

Lurry's airway was obstructed for one minute and 38 seconds. Esqueda spoke exclusively with the CBS 2 investigators in July of 2020. He said Lurry was seen "suffocating."

After Esqueda came forward, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul was asked by the Joliet mayor to conduct an outside investigation into the police department.

Esqueda believes the AG will unearth documents and uncover patterns and practices of going after any officer who speaks out. He had nothing to do with Lurry's death, but he was the one charged with crimes for releasing the videos to the public.

The AG confirmed he met with Lurry's widow, Nicole Lurry, to explain he is not investigating any specific officers for criminal allegations involving her husband's death, but rather launching a broader probe into the entire department.

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