Police Detail Arrest Caught on Cam Near NIU in DeKalb, Review Use of Force

Warning: Video is disturbing and may be difficult to watch for some viewers.

Police in DeKalb released new details Tuesday on what happened before a man was seen on video being choked and stunned by a stun gun during an arrest that has the department reviewing officers' use of force. 

The man seen on the video during the arrest near the campus of Northern Illinois University over the weekend called it "police brutality" and likened it to what happened to Eric Garner, who died after a chokehold arrest in New York in 2014. 

"I’m very jittery. I can’t stop shaking," Elonte McDowell said Tuesday. "My mom is in the back of my mind, my brothers… Eric Garner is in the back of my mind." 

Police alleged McDowell had drugs in his car and tried to flee from police. 

The incident took place Saturday but McDowell's girlfriend posted the cell phone video on social media Monday night, garnering hundreds of comments and shares.

At least four officers can be seen attempting to arrest McDowell in the footage.

In a release Tuesday, DeKalb police said they "received information" that McDowell was driving in the area with a "load of drugs." Officers pulled him over and searched the vehicle where they said they found "a felony-amount of cannabis." 

"Officers informed McDowell that he was under arrest and approached McDowell to place him into handcuffs," the release stated. "Upon doing so, McDowell attempted to flee. Officers attempted to restrain McDowell, who continued to resist their efforts to place him into handcuffs." 

McDowell can be heard in video asking his girlfriend Alyssa Retuerto, who posted the footage on Facebook, to record the incident as one officer has him in a chokehold and two others attempt to handcuff him. A fourth officer, accompanied by a K-9, then steps closer and fires a stun gun. [[558423192, C]]

McDowell appears to briefly lose consciousness, with one officer then tapping his face and saying, "You're okay, big boy. That's a nice fake."

That same officer then appears to tell Retuerto, "Back up and don't impede in my investigation," as another approaches to shepherd her away from McDowell, asking, "Do you not understand that I have a dog in my hand and he will bite you?"

In an interview with NBC 5, McDowell said he was pulled over by Lincoln Towers off Lincoln Highway near the NIU campus and officers asked him to step out of the car but did not tell him why. McDowell said he got out of the car but when he questioned the officers, they attempted to put him in handcuffs and he somehow fell to the ground where the officers began to choke him.

"I remember waking up like in a pool full of sweat and my girlfriend telling me that she loved me and that she promised me that everything’s gonna be okay," McDowell said. "And I remember the tasers just hanging out of my stomach.”

At one point, an officer says in the footage that McDowell was being detained for "trespassing." 

"I know he stays here now and as far as I’m aware - I just went through all the trespass notices and we don’t have one on him," said leasing agent Kimberly Asks with Lincoln Tower Apartments.

DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott said in an emailed statement, "The defendant in the video you provided was charged with felony drug offenses and resisting arrest by DeKalb City Police this past Saturday. The officer who activated the taser was a Deputy from our office who was assisting DeKalb City Police."

"The defendant in this case was processed by DeKalb City Police and transported to the County Jail in Sycamore. He was released on bond the following day," Scott's statement continued.

The DeKalb Police Department said he was charged with unlawful possession of cannabis with the intent to deliver, unlawful possession of cannabis, criminal trespass to property and resisting a peace officer. 

McDowell admitted that he had marijuana in his vehicle, but he and Retuerto said they both questioned the way in which he was arrested and wanted answers.

"If we break the law. If you break the law – justice is served, right?" he told NBC 5. "You have to go do your time. I need them to do their time too for what they did.”

An Illinois law signed in 2015 prohibits officers from using chokeholds in performing their duties "unless deadly force is justified."

The law states that a chokehold is defined as the application of "direct pressure to the throat, windpipe, or airway of another with the intent to reduce or prevent the intake of air," according to Illinois code, but does not include "contact with the neck that is not intended to reduce the intake of air."

It's not clear what the intent was of the officer in the video seen with his arm around McDowell's neck. 

"The DeKalb Police Department is reviewing all available video footage and statements regarding the use of force in this incident," the department said in its release. "The DeKalb Police Department has contacted the Illinois State Police requesting they conduct an independent review of this incident. At this time, the officer involved in this incident has been temporarily reassigned to administrative duties." 

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