'Very Disturbing': A Chicago Cop Body-Slammed a Man Who Allegedly Spit on Him

After the man hit the ground, he lay motionless for the remainder of a now-viral 42-second bystander video.
December 2, 2019, 4:44pm
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A Chicago cop is under investigation for slamming a man to the ground in a manner the city’s mayor called “very disturbing” after she saw the bystander video of the arrest.

The man in the video, 29-year-old Bernard Kersh, was allegedly drinking alcohol by a city bus stop, on his way to a family celebration on Thanksgiving Day, when he was approached by police. That’s when cops claim he spit in their faces and threatened them, forcing one officer to initiate an “emergency takedown.”

Kersh was charged with aggravated battery, drinking in public, simple assault, and resisting a police officer, according to the Chicago Tribune. He pleaded not guilty to those charges Sunday. The officer who grabbed him by the waist and threw him to the ground, meanwhile, is now under investigation from the city’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability, amid widespread outrage over a now-viral bystander cellphone video that captured the arrest. After Kersh hit the ground, he lay motionless for the remainder of the 42-second video.

“While a single video does not depict the entirety of the interactions between the police and the individual, this particular video is very disturbing,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a tweet Friday. The officer in the video has not been publicly named.

One of Kersh’s attorneys, Andrew Stroth, told the Washington Post that the incident could have “easily” killed him. The arresting officer was also temporarily “relieved of police powers,” a spokesperson for the Chicago Police Department said in a tweet Friday.

But Cook County prosecutor James Murphy said that, after being cited for drinking in public, Kersh allegedly threatened the officers and licked one officer’s face before spitting in his eye, which his attorneys dispute. At any rate, advocates and family members questioned whether the level of violence depicted in the video was necessary — Kersh allegedly has schizophrenia, contributing to a prior criminal history — and worry he’ll have a brain injury or lasting trauma from the arrest. (He was allegedly transported to a nearby hospital, and police said his injuries were minor.)

Cover: Screenshot via video