CHICAGO — The Rev. Jesse Jackson is calling on Mayor Lori Lightfoot to make an example of the Chicago police officer seen on video body slamming a man on Thanksgiving.
Just before 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving, police say 29-year-old Bernard Kersch was stopped by officers for drinking from a bottle of vodka near 79th Street in the city’s Chatham neighborhood. At one point in the encounter, a bystander’s camera was recording as an officer grabbed Kersh, lifted him and slammed him into the ground.
Prosecutors said Kersch immediately became combative and verbally abusive when officers stopped to speak to him, licking an officer on the cheek before spitting in his eye and mouth before he was taken into custody.
Kersch’s mother said he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and she was on the phone with him as officers approached.
Police said Kersch resisted several times before the officer used what they called an “emergency takedown” to place him into custody. He was charged with felony aggravated battery of a police officer.
In court Sunday, prosecutors said Kersch had a criminal history, including a similar incident in recent years where he spit on a police officer. In October 2018 he was convicted of Felony Resisting Police for spitting on an officer and served 18 months in a state prison. In September 2011, he also served two years probation and four months in jail for aggravated battery to a police officer and felony theft.
A judge set Kersch’s bail at $5,000. On Monday, Jackson and Kersch’s mother visited him in jail. Jackson failed to secure Kersch’s release because Kersh is now being held on an unrelated previous criminal matter.
Jackson said Kersh has mental health issues but in the big picture he is encouraged that Lightfoot said she was disturbed by what she saw.
“He really should have been in the hospital for a psychiatric and physical examination, and the police who body slammed him should be in jail. Once he is free, the case is not over. She was disturbed by the tape as was the whole nation,” Jackson said.
Jackson said the Kersh case gives Lightfoot an opportunity to set the tone for her administration.
Video of the takedown sparked outrage as it spread online. Lightfoot tweeted, “while a single video does not depict the entirety of the interactions between the police and the individual this particular video is very disturbing.”
The Chicago cop involved in the incident has been relieved of his police powers, pending a review. Lightfoot said it will be investigated by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA).
The incident was also captured by police video and security cameras from at least one nearby store. A CPD spokesperson said the department is not aware of any bodycam footage of the incident.
In addition to a felony count of aggravated battery of a peace officer, Kersch was charged with two misdemeanors of resisting arrest and assault. He was also charged with drinking alcohol on the public way.
Jackson said in his opinion, the officer was too aggressive, and it’s a good moment for the mayor to set the tone of her administration.