Chicago Police

Man Body Slammed by Chicago Police Officer to Remain in Jail

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A man charged with assault and resisting police appeared briefly in court Thursday, remaining jailed one week after a Chicago police officer body slammed him to the ground during his arrest, a confrontation that was captured on video and spread widely on social media.

Bernard Kersh, 29, was charged with one felony count of aggravated battery, one count of resisting police, and one count of simple assault after the confrontation with authorities on Thursday, according to police.

His attorney said after court that prosecutors planned to indict Kersh, changing his appearance Thursday from a preliminary hearing and instead moving the next hearing to Jan. 15, at which point he expected Kersh to have been indicted. 

"Today we appeared before the judge for what could have been preliminary hearing. The state elected not to do that," Kersh's attorney Sami Azhari said.

"They got a date to go to the grand jury and indict Mr. Kersh, so the next court date presumably they will have already indicted him," he continued. "There's going to be a true bill of indictment that's issued and at that point he's going to be arraigned at a future date."

Chicago police said that on Nov. 28, Kersh was seen drinking alcohol at a bus stop near the intersection of 79th Street and Cottage Grove. Officers began to write him a ticket for drinking in public, according to police, who said that when he was confronted, Kersh spat on an officer and licked his face.

Video of the arrest was posted to social media, showing the officer then picking Kersh up and slamming him to the pavement before taking him into custody.

Kersh’s bond was set at $5,000 in the case, an amount Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition said Sunday that they would pay, calling the charges "excessive" and calling for a full investigation into the case.

"He had no weapon, no gun, no knife. He had a cup in one hand and a telephone in the other," Jackson said Thursday. "The man who threw him down, the policeman, is a legitimate professional martial artist. He used him as an example of what he can do. He pressed his head against the sidewalk."

"Bernard's head still hurts. He should be in the hospital not in a jail cell," Jackson added. 

When they arrived to post the bond Sunday, Jackson said the group was told that a hold had been placed on Kersh’s release, and he would remain in jail.

“While [the officer] is under investigation, he is still running free,” Jackson said at the time. “The man who is hurt is still in jail and should be home free. Now that we’ve paid the bail, and based on the judge’s evaluation yesterday, they put up another road block.”

According to the Illinois Department of Corrections, Kersh’s case was under review “to determine whether he will be served with a parole violation.” Kersh was already on parole for a 2018 conviction, court documents show.

Jackson said Thursday that Kersh was due for parole in two days, but it was revoked because of the incident. He and Kersh's mother also noted that they believed he needed to be released from jail for medical treatment. 

"I spoke with him last night and he is still complaining about really bad headaches," Kersh's mother Keshia Johnson said. "His head is still hurting. His head has been hurting him since it happened and they're just giving him ibuprofen. I think there's something wrong."

Kersh is blind in one eye and suffers from schizophrenia, according to his family, who said he needs both mental health treatment as well as medical treatment from injuries he may have suffered during the arrest. 

At least two of the officers seen in the video were relieved of their police powers pending a full investigation by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, according to police.

COPA recommended that two of the officers be relieved of their powers, a finding with which interim Supt. Charlie Beck concurred, relieving both, the department announced Wednesday.

Johnson said she was "glad that the officers are relieved of their duties so they're not out there hurting or killing somebody else's son, child, daughter" but that she didn't think it was enough. 

"They are still working. They are getting paid, they are just behind a desk," she continued. "My son could have been killed. I think more needs to be done. This is like a slap on the wrist."

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