Friends and family voiced their support for two men involved in a dramatic physical confrontation with Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk that was caught on video.
Victor Williams and his brother Jamal Smith face assault and mob action charges stemming from the incident, which occurred as Joliet police were breaking up protests in the city earlier this month.
While NBC 5 does not have video of what happened prior to the incident, a video of the incident itself shows O’Dekirk, a former Joliet police officer, approaching Williams and wrestling him to the ground during a clash between police and protesters.
Smith then came into the picture, with his attorney saying he was trying to come to his brother’s defense.
While police in Joliet had responded to calls of looting in the city that night, attorneys for Williams and Smith say there was no damage to the area, and that Victor was simply trying to find his brother Jamal.
“We have a law in this country called ‘defense of others,’ and Jamal was going to aid his brother, who he saw being tackled by a white man,” attorney Lawrence X. O’Reilly said. “He knew nothing else about the man, and then he himself was thrown to the ground and beaten.”
Attorneys say that what should have been an opportunity for the mayor to heal a divided community instead was turned into an incident that has further exacerbated tensions.
“Mayor O’Dekirk chose to divide this city further by his own violent actions towards a citizen of this community, and in doing so he told us exactly what he stands for,” attorney Michael Baker said.
The mayor declined comment on the matter, but has argued he was acting in self-defense in the incident.
Last week, the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Joliet Police Department asked the Illinois State Police to investigate the incident to prevent any accusations of a conflict of interest.
That investigation isn’t good enough for attorneys for the two men, who say that any normal citizen would have been arrested in such an incident and that only O’Dekirk’s title and ties to the department kept him from being put into custody.
“If any other citizen were walking around the streets with a police hat on and were directing people where they could and could not go, and then they were to grab somebody and take them down to the ground, any one of us would have been arrested,” O’Reilly said.