The attorney for the Black man who was forcefully arrested inside a Kenosha Applebee's last month is calling for the removal of a Kenosha police officer, for all charges to be dropped, and for an independent investigation.
Zion, Illinois residents Jermelle English Jr. and Shanya Boyd and their 1-year-old son were having dinner inside the Applebee's off Highway 50 on July 20 when Kenosha officers mistakenly identified them as suspects in a nearby hit-and-run. The people believed to be the actual suspects were in the bathroom of the restaurant.
Video emerged on social media showing the incident in which English was seen being forcefully arrested, his baby removed from his arms, and an officer can be seen striking English at one point.
Leo Viola, spokesperson with the Kenosha Police Department, said in the days following the incident that officers were acting based off the description of suspects provided to them by witnesses. Viola said the description was two Black males and a Black female holding a baby, but a criminal complaint says the description was one Black male and one Black female holding a baby.
Attorney Kevin O'Connor held a news conference Wednesday afternoon outside the restaurant and was joined by English and Boyd's family, and activists, including Tavis Grant, the executive director of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, founded by Rev. Jesse Jackson.
"All (officers) had to do was ask a few questions, it would take 10 seconds, 30 seconds to avoid any of this happening," O'Connor said. "But no, Kenosha and Pleasant Prairie as their sidekick have a history that they act first and ask questions later especially if you're the wrong color. And this has been a pattern that they've done, they come out, they get aggressive, they beat, and then they ask questions later.
"Simply being Black and having to go to dinner is not a crime. And then on top of it, to throw salt in the wounds, they decide in the next stop to start charging these parents."
English and Boyd were charged with resisting an officer and disorderly conduct. Boyd also received a possession of marijuana charge. Viola said the officers had legal authority to detain English and restrain him while they conducted their investigation. O'Connor said all charges against them both should be dropped. He also called on Applebee's to speak to the family.
According to O'Connor, no one from the Kenosha Applebee's franchise location has reached out to English or Boyd, but they did release a statement to the media.
"The safety and well-being of our guests and team members is a top priority, and we do not condone violence or discrimination of any kind," the statement says. "Over the past 25 years, this restaurant has been a safe place where our neighbors can share a meal. We are committed to cooperating with the authorities in their investigation."
The manager on duty the evening of the incident, Jennifer Harris, was also fired. She says it was due to employees recording videos and posting them to social media. However, the company has not provided a reason for Harris' firing. She has hired an attorney, William Sulton, who has said he would pursue all "legal remedies" if Harris' employment was not restored.
O'Connor said the officer involved in the incident should be removed from the force. Viola said Thursday that all officers involved are at "full duty," except one officer who is on "light duty" following an injury at an unrelated call.
O'Connor also called for an independent investigation into the incident. The state Department of Justice told the Journal Sentinel last week that the agency has not launched an investigation. “Transparency is critical and there should be a full investigation into this incident,” Attorney General Josh Kaul said. “Wisconsin DOJ is not currently involved.”
Viola said in the days following the incident that pepper spray was deployed in the incident, but said the child was not "directly" exposed. O'Connor said Wednesday the 1-year-old was affected by the pepper spray, and that he doesn't believe it was an accident. But if it was an accident then that is problematic, too.
"If this officer is saying it was an accident to pull out the pepper spray, maybe it was an accident to pull out a gun, maybe it was an accident to do something else that this tragedy could of been much worse," he said.
O'Connor said filing a civil rights lawsuit is possible, but said he wants Kenosha police turn over all the evidence first. "I am never quick to file on anything until I have all the evidence," he said. "Unlike the police did to (English and Boyd) that evening, charging them and attacking them without having evidence."
Tyler Katzenberger of the Journal Sentinel contributed to this report.
Drake Bentley will be reached at DBentley1@gannett.com.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Attorney says charges should be dropped after Kenosha forceful arrest