Settlement reached in Butler wrongful detention, force lawsuit

Adam Tumino, Staff Writer

A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit filed by Eastern swimmer Jaylan Butler against law enforcement officers from multiple departments who he claimed used excessive force and detention during in incident in February 2019.

Butler, who is Black, was traveling back to Eastern with the swim team from a meet in South Dakota when the bus stopped at a rest stop near East Moline, Illinois, near the Iowa border. When he and some teammates got off the bus to stretch from the long ride, he was confronted by two police officers with their guns drawn, ordering him to the ground.

Butler was thrown to the ground and one of the officers threatened to “blow his f**king head off.”

Butler was mistaken by the officers for a suspect they had been looking for, but rather than letting him go, they took him into custody for resisting arrest before eventually letting him go.

Backed by lawyers from the ACLU, Butler filed his lawsuit in January 2020.

The ACLU of Illinois issued a statement after the settlement was reached, reading:

“We are pleased to announce the successful resolution of Butler v. Staes, et al., a matter first filed in January 2020. We filed this case after our client Jaylan – an innocent college student returning from a swim meet on his team’s bus – was taken to the ground and had a gun held to his head by police officers. After reaching a settlement with two of the officers who directly interacted with Jaylan on that fateful evening, Jaylan has filed a stipulation to dismiss the remaining claims.

We filed this case to seek accountability for Jaylan and to raise awareness of the degree to which traumatic police interactions harm individuals, even when the person harmed is able to walk away. We believe, and Jaylan concurs, that our actions to date have satisfied those goals. Now, Jaylan can put this matter behind him and continue his private life as a student, athlete, and young man.

We are so pleased to have worked on this case, and to represent Jaylan as he pursued accountability for the actions taken against him by police officers. Jaylan was determined to ensure that his experience would not simply fly under the radar the way abusive police interactions with young Black men often do. Despite all of the challenges of the last year, Jaylan has remained committed to this quest for accountability – both for himself and for the wider community – and continues to seek to ensure that police officers treat young Black men like himself with dignity and respect.

We thank our co-counsel at Sidley Austin and all of those who have been part of the legal team supporting Jaylan. We also thank Jaylan‘s family for their support and partnership at every step in this process. We wish Jaylan the best of luck in the future and are pleased that this matter has been resolved in a positive fashion.”

A statement from Butler was also included.

“The memories of that night being pressed to the ground, with officers swearing at me and a gun pointed at my head, will remain with me forever. But I know that unlike other Black men who have been stopped and manhandled by police, I got to go home. For me, this lawsuit has always been about holding the officers accountable for their actions that night. I believe I have accomplished that goal. As a result, I am happy to dismiss the suit and move forward.

I want to thank all of the people from across the country who were supportive of me during this time. I value your well wishes and words of appreciation more than I can say.

The end of this lawsuit is not the end of the fight for police accountability. We must ensure that officers are held to account when they violate someone’s constitutional rights. This is an effort that I will continue to support for the rest of my life.”

Butler finished his junior season with the Eastern men’s swimming team this spring.

Adam Tumino can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]