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updated: 8/27/2012 4:08 PM

Suit against Carpentersville, officer alleges racism, brutality

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A Latino man from Crystal Lake is suing the village of Carpentersville and members of its police force alleging he was roughed up and subjected to racial slurs during a traffic stop last year and that the village's resolution to make English its official language gave police license to discriminate against Spanish-speaking people.

Johny Perez, 21, claims he was falsely arrested and Officer Alan Webb was abusive toward him. He is seeking at least $50,000 in damages.

Perez's 12-count lawsuit, filed earlier this month, centers on his March 16, 2011, traffic stop.

According to the suit:

Perez, a Spanish-speaking U.S. citizen, was driving near Route 25, when an officer pulled him over for going 5 mph over the speed limit. Three minutes into the stop, Webb and other officers arrived. Webb told Perez to turn his engine off and get out of his car. Perez obeyed, but Webb started yelling profanities at him. As he turned off the engine and faced Webb, Webb pushed him in the chest, causing him to stumble and fall onto his car. Webb then punched Perez twice in the face, kneed him in his side and punched him on the back of his head.

Other police officers held Perez while Webb attacked him, the suit goes on to say. Afterward, Webb grabbed Perez by the collar, screamed at him for 10 seconds and called him names. Perez was treated for facial and body bruises at Centegra Hospital in McHenry and incurred $3,000 in medical bills, his suit states.

Perez also accuses Webb of lying in his subsequent police report to make it appear as though Perez was the aggressor. According to court records, Perez was charged with misdemeanor aggravated assault to a police officer and resisting arrest.

The complaint, filed by Webb, accused Perez of pulling away from Webb, chest bumping the officer and refusing to put his hands behind his back to be handcuffed.

Court records show prosecutors dismissed both charges.

Police Chief Alan Popp, who joined the force nearly a year after the traffic stop, had no comment, saying he wasn't aware of the matter.

But he did refute the notion that his officers engage in racist behavior.

"It's my opinion that everybody, everybody is treated fairly and equitably here," Popp said.

In 2006, Carpentersville proposed an ordinance that would have made English its official language. But the village board later backed off it, because problems may have arisen with first responders and Spanish-speaking residents understanding each other. More than 40 percent of Carpentersville's residents are Latino.

In 2007, the board instead adopted a symbolic resolution that declared English the official language in Carpentersville. It is nonbinding and cannot be enforced.

"It's a goal to reach," Village President Ed Ritter said. "It would be nice if everyone spoke English. It would be better for all of us in communicating."

Ritter declined to comment on the lawsuit because he hasn't seen it. But he did, in general: "Our policy is not to discriminate in any way, shape or form."

Neither Webb nor Village Attorney James Rhodes could be reached for comment Monday.

The case is due in court before Judge F. Keith Brown on Nov. 1.

• Daily Herald Staff Writer Harry Hitzeman contributed to this report.

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