Traffic stop in Aurora, Illinois results in attempted murder charges

This incident happened last month but the Aurora Police Department just released the dashcam video yesterday. The video matches the initial police description of what happened. A lone officer was performing a traffic stop after he saw a car roll through a stop sign at an intersection. The driver did pull over but was immediately agitated, demanding to know why the officer was following him. A female passenger then got out of the car. The officer repeatedly asked her to get back into the car and after she refused he attempted to arrest her. At that point the male driver got out and threatened the officer. The officer then tried to arrest the driver. Here’s the police description of what happened next:

At that moment, the driver took off running, and the officer ran after him. The two passengers also followed the officer yelling obscenities. The female rear passenger approached the officer as they ran, the officer turned around and grabbed her arm to take her into custody, but she slipped out of his grip.

The two female passengers then began striking the officer with closed fists and kicking his body and head. The officer heard a male’s voice and then was struck repeatedly in the head from several angles. The rear female passenger placed her forearm around the officer’s neck and applied significant force to his windpipe, causing him to lose the ability to breathe. A short time later, additional officers arrived and placed the subjects into custody.

We don’t see the kicks and punches because there’s no dash cam where it happened but in video taken from a second police car that arrives at the scene moments later, you can see one of the women is sitting on the officer’s head in the street while the other chokes him. They only stop when an arriving officer tackles the woman to the ground.

At the end of this clip, there’s a 911 call placed by the male driver who had run to a nearby house. As you’ll hear, he claimed the officer was “terrorizing” him and his family by following them. He then shouted repeatedly about killing the officer. “He touches my sister I’m going to kill his ass,” the driver said.

All three of the people involved have been charged with multiple felonies including attempted first degree murder, aggravated battery and assault. Here’s the full clip.

Yesterday the police chief and the prosecutor held a press conference at which they showed the video. Police Chief Kristan Ziman pointed out that this incident would have been a fairly minor traffic citation, at worst, if the three people in the car had simply cooperated with the officer. Instead they immediately turned this into a confrontation and then into a physical fight. State’s Attorney Jamie Mosser then said that strangulation had been upgraded from a misdemeanor to a felony back in 2009 because of the risk it represents. “To place the officer in the position of not being able to breathe, that was attempted first degree murder,” she said.

At the very end of this clip, one of the reporters in the Q&A said of the video “you couldn’t see most of the things you are alleging happened.” He added, “What do you think is going to be the reaction?” Police Chief Ziman argued that the totality of what happened it’s clear where the aggression was coming from. “A traffic stop, most of us have been subjected to a traffic stop at some point in our life,” she said.

“Most of us are not black,” the reporter replied.

The police chief points out this was a Hispanic police officer pulling over a black driver for a traffic infraction. The chief seemed a bit flustered in her answer and I don’t blame her. Even in a situation where the officer is threatened, attacked and winds up in the street with someone sitting on his head, there are some in the media suggesting maybe the problem wasn’t the behavior of the suspects. Even in a situation where you have video of much of what happened plus medical reports from the hospital, the media is suggesting police can’t be believed about who was in danger.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see what a jury thinks. Here’s the press conference already cued up to the police chief’s statement.