D Gregory Smith

Who Is Demetrius Anderson and Why Should You Give a Shit? (Updated)

Filed By D Gregory Smith | February 14, 2010 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Blue Island IL Police Department, Illinois Hate Crime, people who should know better, Police brutality

Demetrius Anderson is the African-American, gay, HIV+ man I wrote about who is suing the Blue Island, IL Police Department, alleging excessive force, malicious prosecution and hate crime-worthy verbal assault referring to his (supposed) religion, sexuality, mental health state and HIV status.

After learning of that post, Anderson's legal team contacted me and offered me the chance to read the actual court documents [pdf], listen to their side of the story and offer it to our readers.

I have read the complaint. I have listened to Anderson's legal counsel, asked questions and took notes. I have also contacted The Blue Island Police Dept and their attorney, James Brosnahan for comment. Brosnahan declined to comment at this time, having not read the fully amended complaint, but has offered to speak to me about it at a later date.

I have come to the conclusion that we should all know who Demetrius Anderson is- because he is me and he is you.

So Much More To It

For all the fantastic men and women who serve in law enforcement who are respectful, helpful, capable and well-trained, there are still ignorant, untrained law enforcement officers out there- I've met a few. Because they are out there, and worse, because some police departments don't train any of their officers properly, what happened to Demetrius Anderson could happen to me, it could happen to you.

"Until there is equal protection under the law, there will never be equal protection by the law," says Jon Erickson, one of Anderson's attorneys.

Of course, he's right, but there's so much more to it than that.

I have a personal gay-bashing story. So does my partner. So do several of our friends. None of them involve (to my knowledge) civil servants, health professionals or law enforcement as perpetrators.

And that's just as it should be. Police, firefighters and EMT's are here to provide for our safety, well-being and protection. Most of them do. In fact, it was a gruff Chicago cop who comforted me and a friend after we were attacked with the words "You guys weren't doing anything wrong- make sure you remember that."

But I also know that we are not where we could be as a society. Those charged to "serve and protect" sometimes fail to apply that across the board. Personal prejudices have a way of creeping into the job- any job. But I believe the people charged with my protection, who take home salaries paid by my taxes, have an obligation to be trained, educated and assisted to understand me, whoever I may be- on a variety of levels.

Is that failure true in this instance? Well, it's enough to create a case, and it's enough for the judge to specifically grant inclusion of hate crimes to the complaint.

Anderson's Allegations

Demetrius Anderson is a seriously mentally ill man, who suffers with debilitating depression, anxiety and perhaps other serious mental health disorders . On the morning of April 20th, 2009, Anderson attempted to end his life by stabbing himself in the chest with a knife.

His mother and sister, who witnessed the event, called 911, an ambulance and EMT crew arrived and treated Anderson, having been apprised of his mental illness and his HIV status. He was moving toward an ambulance for transport to the hospital. Anderson, already in a highly agitated state, became terrified, believing he was being committed. He left the scene, running down the street.

Unknown to him, two police officers were chasing him. He was shot with a taser in the back without warning, ordered to the ground at gunpoint with violent expletives, his limbs stepped upon to hold him down and handcuffed violently, causing physical injuries. He was placed in the ambulance accompanied by an officer who verbally abused him all the way to the hospital, especially with the words "animal", "retarded" and "fucking Muslim"(Demetrius Anderson is not a Muslim).

He was admitted to the hospital, treated and released into formal custody five days later. Upon booking, Anderson was confronted by the aforementioned officer who stated that the defendant should have picked up a rock so he had an excuse to shoot him. He continued to verbally abuse Anderson, specifically mentioning his sexuality and HIV status, concluding with the suggestion the defendant jump off a specific bridge so that he would succeed at suicide.

Anderson was charged with resisting arrest, in itself a grave commentary on the situation according to attorney Jon Erickson. "Officers took what should have been a simple first aid situation and turned it into brutality," he said.

I was not there. I have not heard from the defense in this case. I have only the details presented to me by the plaintiff's attorneys and the filed complaint.

One Thing Is Clear

If this is indeed what happened, or even close to what happened, it must be investigated fully and thoroughly and, if proven, Demetrius Anderson should be compensated for his unprofessional treatment. This is too grave an offense on too many levels to too many communities of persons- LGBT, HIV+, mentally ill, Muslim- for any of us to not care.

That is why it's important to know Demetrius Anderson, because he is me and he is you.

And you should give a shit.

NOTE: (2.15.10)
Letter from Demetrius' lawyer is reprinted below.

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I read your article. And I do give a shit. So how do I help? Is there someone I can call? A letter I can write? Tell me what I can do to help Mr. Anderson and I will...

As a matter of public interest and safety, I'm hoping this case will get some attention, so pass the story around, talk it up!

If you'd like to make a call or write a letter, you can certainly do so. It may be helpful to simply state that as a citizen, you expect a complete investigation of these charges.

As a matter of public record, the Blue Island City Attorney's address is 13051 S. Greenwood Ave., Blue Island, IL 60406.

The Mayor's Office is at that same address, and the number is 708-597-8603.

I've asked Demetrius' lawyer your questions- I'll post an answer form them as soon as I receive it.

-From Demetrius Anderson's legal team:

The best way for people to help is to call/write/email the Mayor's Office. And I am happy to pass along any supportive comments/thoughts to Demetrius. I know it's important to him that people know he's making a stand, not just for himself, but for other people that find themselves needing emergency care. The City Council of Blue Island has public meetings on the 2nd and Fourth Tuesday of every month.

Interestingly, about 6 years ago, 12 lawsuits were all filed on the same day against Blue Island for false arrest, malicious prosecution, and excessive force. Here's a link to an article written at the time. http://www.hispanicprwire.com/print.php?l=in/15458&id=3229 Although that certainly doesn't mean that the police clearly engaged in the actions we allege, it certainly is interesting.

I can certainly understand the concern of some of the people commenting that this isn't the whole story, and it is very important to get the whole story. I hope we receive a response from the Police sometime soon.

Laura K. Bautista
Attorney at Law
Civil Rights Center, P.C.
4554 N. Broadway Street Suite 325
Chicago, IL 60640

While I understand the issues at hand here, I have to ask why we would talk about this without having both sides of the story. If Demetrius was in as agitated a state as we read here, it's possible (just possible, folks) his interpretation of what happened could be off. Was there anyone in the ambulance that can confirm what the officer said? Did anyone hear the officers order him to stop before he was tasered? I mean, we're talking about someone who was in a huge amount of emotional turmoil -- he'd just tried to kill himself with a knife, for crying out loud, and now he's running down the street with that kind of injury to escape... something?

It's very possible this played out exactly as described. But given the nature of things, I'm kinda thinking we need to take a step back here until we get the officers' version of events rather than rush to some judgment that might not be merited.

Sean, I really appreciate your comments.
The only judgement, I hope, is that these are serious charges brought by a human being who is/has been marginalized and discriminated against on a number of levels, and they deserve to be fully investigated; and professionals who are expected to serve the public should be adequately trained and held to a high standard of professionalism.
There were witnesses, and there are others to be heard from- including the officers in question, but it should be expected that they all be heard, plaintiff and defendant alike.

I guess my concern is: what if we're wrong? Who's gonna apologize on our behalf to the officer for having maligned him?

I live in North Carolina, near Duke University. I'm sure all of you know about the issues Duke had when its lacrosse team was suddenly catapulted into the public eye for hiring a stripper for a party and then being the target of a rape investigation. For weeks, I heard little other than how terrible these guys were: several "leaders" practically raced for face time in the media to denounce them all.

Then it turns out that the facts of the case werent quite as the accuser made them out to be. In some respects, no where near as originally presented.

And where are all these "leaders" who rushed to judgment? Nowhere to be seen. Off on another cause, looking for more media time on something or other -- ignoring the mess they helped create down here and leaving it for someone else to clean up.

I'm hoping I'm wrong about all this, that what Mr. Anderson says is completely and utterly true so that if there is an issue within that police department, it can be addressed swiftly and decisively. But I also submit that if it turns out that the facts as presented dont match up with whatever the truth of the situation might be, we can all be mature enough to apologize to whomever we offended.

Just my 0.02. YRMV

I hope so, too. I just want it investigated. And as far as your $.02 is concerned- it's always welcome.

I often wonder why a psychiatrist isn't present in these instances. We just had a case here in Kentucky where a mentally-ill man was shot and killed by the police and it's currently being investigated. Would it be that difficult for a psych specialist to be present when the mentally-ill are involved? I'm also not sure why he was arrested and charged with resisting arrest when he wasn't under arrest in the first place.

"Resisting arrest" simply means not stopping when the officer tells you to.

Thanks for posting on this, Greg. Police brutality is out of control in the US, especially when it comes to their indiscriminate use of Tasers. They're supposed to be used as a substitute for guns only, so I'd like to see their rationale for shooting this guy had they been in this situation in pre-Taser days. Otherwise, it looks like just another case in which the cops are tasing someone simply for not following their orders quickly enough, which is incredibly irresponsible and deadly.

kathy Kuehner | February 19, 2010 10:04 AM

As a Blue Island resident I would like to thank Mr. Erickson and Mr. Smith for bringing the story of Demetrius Anderson to the public. Also, Thank you to attorney Blake Horwitz, who in 2004 filed 12 lawsuits on behalf of BI residents.

In October, 2004, Antonio Manrique, an elderly Hispanic man died after a terrible beating by the BIPD. the Blue Island community organized a committee to talk to mayor Don Peloquin and police chief Doug Hoglund about the police misconduct in BI. Doug flatly refused to make any changes to his department stating "some days you just have to kick some ass" Our mayor referred our Hispanic residents as "gangbangers and dope dealers" Our group contacted Mr. Horwitz who then filed the 12 lawsuits for the community. Our mayor and city administration is known for its arrogance and racial bigotry.

In 2006, a gay couple was repeatly threatened and the victim of vandalism with ugly names written on their fence and garage. They called the BIPD who told them they would do nothing and they (the couple)were the source of their own problems. It was only AFTER the Southtown was called in and pictures appeared in the paper did the BIPD make any kind of an investigation.

BI residents have tried to talk to the city of Blue Island about its attitudes and behavior but it is impossible to make positive change in a local government when it doesn't care. Thank you Mr. Smith, Mr. Erickson, Mr. Horwitz and most of Mr. Anderson for standing up for your rights as a person in BI.

In 2006, a gay couple received repeated threats

Sharon Johnson | June 27, 2010 1:06 AM

In response to your article about
Demetrius Anderson, I am very angry. I understand his frustration due to the fact that I am a victim of the Blue Island Police. I am very proud Mr. Smith that someone like yourself has taken an interest in people like me and Mr. Anderson because it appears that people of color, same sex relations, and of the Muslim faith, don't stand a chance. Tears of joy is feeling the corners of my eyes while typing this. Thank You!