For many Carbondale teens, walking across the street from the high school to buy snacks from Dollar General and Casey’s is an afterschool tradition.
However, this everyday errand on Sept. 23 for a 15-year-old girl ended up with her wrestled to the ground by an officer outside of the establishments in a video that recently went viral on social media.
Police say the girl was banned from the store and trespassing on the property. The officer attempted to make contact with the individual in order to investigate the complaint further, but the suspect refused to talk to the officer and refused to give an identity, according to the release.
On Thursday evening, dozens rallied behind the student and staged a protest at the Dollar General where they stood for two hours.
The store expected them and closed early, ending the possibility of what was supposed to be a sit-in; however some protesters taped signs to the door.
Chief Stan Reno did not initially respond to requests for comment about why the girl was banned from the store — which police say prompted them to the area that day.
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Early Friday, Reno sent an email to The Southern, saying: "The Juvenile Justice Act prohibits us from providing specific details about the case. I apologize that I cannot be more responsive."
Nancy Maxwell said the call to the police was made because the girl was wearing a backpack.
Willie Broadnax, the grandfather of the girl who was arrested and a pastor at Encouraging Word Ministry, said he believes she didn’t do anything wrong and the family is working to find out what happened.
Broadnax said the department needs to address how to better de-escalate situations.
“You can de-escalate things, you know, if you have the power and authority you say to do that, then you should act accordingly. The officer obviously, obviously did not act accordingly. I feel so, hopefully we can remedy the situation sooner than later,” Broadnax said.
According to a news release from the department, officers responded at 3:21 p.m. that day to 100 block of North Giant City Road in reference to a trespassing complaint.
When the initial responding officer arrived, he met with an employee who identified the trespassing individual, police said.
According to a narrative released by Carbondale Police Department, the officer "attempted to reason with the person."
"The suspect refused to comply, at which time the officer was of the opinion that the use of force was necessary to arrest the suspect. The officer, who was alone at the time, responded to the resistance of the suspect. An off-duty officer with another agency assisted with controlling a crowd of people that subsequently formed," the news release from police stated.
The case is being reviewed by the Jackson County State’s Attorney’s Office for consideration of charges of trespassing, resisting a peace officer and aggravated battery to a police officer, according to the department.
The Southern is not naming the girl because she is a juvenile.
Maxwell, a founder of the Southern Illinois Unity Coalition and a former Cook County sheriff's deputy, said she believes the situation was handled improperly. She and other activists and community members, the police department and the city manager met earlier in the day to request extra training.
They also asked for an apology.
“And we didn't get that much of a response of what was going to happen,” Maxwell said. “Police and the city were very quiet. So right now, I just found out that they have a meeting Monday, a meeting they didn't invite me to, or any other people, I think most of the people that were at that meeting. So I don't know what that means or what plans they have."