Sunday, August 16, 2009
Nightmare at Crystal Lake P.D.
An effort to report an attempted armed robbery in Crystal Lake turned into a nightmare Sunday evening for a young couple.
Early in the evening Erik Strickland, 29, bummed a ride with strangers to a store to buy cigarettes. Along the way the man in the right-front seat announced a robbery, but Erik was able to escape from the car and run.
After fleeing the robbery attempt, he ran many blocks to the location where his wife, Veronika Strickland, 19, was. Four squad cars showed up. Erik was presenting some health issues due to hypoglycemia, and the paramedics were called.
When Veronika tried to approach her husband, she was not allowed to do so. Veronika was searched, even though she had nothing to do with the incident. Even though a female officer was on the scene, a male officer patted her down, pressing items in her jeans pocket and feeling the rear pockets (her buttocks). She asked for a female officer to do the search and was denied. When the female officer approached, she told Veronika that male officers are permitted to pat down females.
She wasn't a suspect; why was she even searched? An officer said to her, "If you are innocent, what are you worried about?" What she was trying to do was find out whether her husband was okay, and the police had apparently already criminalized her!
Erik, Veronika and I had gotten acquainted two weeks ago, following their contact with deputies of the McHenry County Sheriff's Department on June 17. On August 4th I published "How accurate should a report be?"
After the paramedics left, Erik was placed in a squad car, not in handcuffs, and transported to the Crystal Lake Police Department, and Veronika was driven there in a separate police vehicle.
At about 8:30PM Erik called me from the Crystal Lake Police Department. He told me that someone had tried to rob him and that the police had separated his wife and him and would not let them leave. He asked if I could come right over, and I agreed. I told him to ask if he was a suspect and, if he was, to clam up; also, to ask for the highest supervisor available. He said they were threatened to take his cell phone away from him.
While I was driving there, Erik called again. He told me that he wasn't a suspect, that they refused to call a higher supervisor, and again that they were about to take away his cell phone.
I arrived at Crystal Lake PD at 9:00PM and told the dispatcher, via the outside phone, that I wanted to speak with someone in charge. At 9:10PM Sgt. Hulata called me on my cell phone (rather than coming out to talk with me). I identified myself as a friend and a reporter. He refused to discuss the matter, which was not an incorrect response, but he also refused to contact his supervisor.
Erik called me again and told me that he had been told that, if he made a statement, then he could go. He told me that they paraded his wife in front of him and that she was crying very hard.
At 9:29PM I phoned the dispatcher again and requested that Deputy Chief Harris be notified. The dispatcher told me that D/C Harris works Monday-Friday. Of course, all commanders have portable police radios, home phones, cell phones and, probably, pagers. At 9:34PM Erik called me again and told me that Sgt. Hulata was going to let them leave. At 9:53PM Erik and Veronika walked out the front door of the police station.
Erik and Veronika that they were accused of being involved in illegal activities. Erik said he was told that his wife had said they were selling tickets at the train station and one of the officers surmised that tonight's "attempted robbery" was either a drug deal gone bad or that Erik was hallucinating.
Erik said that at one point one of the officers said to him, "I asked you a fucking question and you'll answer it!" He was told that if he refused to write out a statement or cooperate or if they invoked their rights, they'd press charges. Earlier in the evening Erik had told me by phone that the police were threatening to file charges for filing a false police report (n other words, that no attempted robbery had occurred) and for making false 9-1-1 calls.
Veronika said that male officers repeatedly came into her interview room, wanting to know if her husband was on drugs or if she were high.
Erik said he did write out a statement, because he was afraid that he was going to be jailed.
Is this how the criminal justice system works in Crystal Lake?