We represent Jaylan Butler, a Black college swimmer for Eastern Illinois University, who was held at gun point and arrested without justification by multiple law enforcement officers. When his swim team’s travel bus stopped near a rest area on the way home from a conference championship, Mr. Butler stepped off the bus to stretch his legs. The swim coach asked Mr. Butler to take a photo with a "buckle up it's the law" sign for the team's social media account. As he was walking back to the bus, several law enforcement vehicles raced up in front of him. A number of officers jumped out of their cars with guns drawn, forced Mr. Butler to the ground, handcuffed him, knelt on his back, and held him face down in the snow for several minutes. 

One officer knelt in front of Mr. Butler, held a gun against his forehead, and threatened to “blow his [expletive] head off” if he moved. Mr. Butler had no idea why the officers were treating him like this, but never resisted and fully complied with their demands. The officers quickly realized that Mr. Butler was not the suspect they were searching for, but they searched his pockets and continued to hold him in the back of a law enforcement vehicle, before requiring him to re-enter the bus and produce his identification. After wrongfully subjecting Mr. Butler to such a frightening ordeal, the officers ignored his requests to file a complaint and failed to provide any documentation.

Mr. Butler sued officers with the Hampton Police, the East Moline Police and the Rock Island County Sheriff’s Office for false arrest, excessive detention, and excessive use of force in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois. After settling his claims against two of the officers, Mr. Butler dismissed his claims against the Sheriff’s deputies. Mr. Butler believes that he accomplished his stated goal of holding these officers accountable for their actions and raising awareness about the lasting harm and trauma caused by frightening police interactions even when non-fatal. 




Rachel Murphy, Elizabeth Jordan (ACLU of Illinois), Kara McCall, Leslie Kuhn-Thayer, Shalyn Caulley (Sidley Austin LLP)

Date filed

January 21, 2020