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Article updated: 12/18/2013 12:12 PM

DuPage County candidate's phone mistaken for weapon

By Robert Sanchez

DuPage County Forest Preserve Commission candidate Joseph C. Wozniak knew his fight to stay on the primary election ballot would be stressful.

The Naperville Republican just never expected it would include being handcuffed.

Wozniak attended a Monday meeting of the DuPage Election Commission in Wheaton where officials were expected to review his nominating petitions and decide if he can remain on the March 18 GOP primary ballot to run against incumbent Linda Painter of Hinsdale for a forest preserve seat.

Wozniak requested and received a continuance of a hearing before the electoral board and then left the building. That's when things got a little strange.

During the meeting, someone in the room mistook the cellphone Wozniak wears on his belt for a concealed weapon. When Wozniak left, officials called campus security.

"How can a cellphone look like a gun?" Wozniak asked Tuesday. "There's no reason for this to happen."

James Joseph, director of DuPage's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said security officers were reviewing surveillance camera footage when Wozniak re-entered the building and returned to the election commission offices with a follow-up question.

Wozniak says he was sitting in the lobby waiting for someone to help him when a security officer approached him and asked if he was carrying a concealed weapon or was a police officer.

"I was dumbfounded by his question," Wozniak said.

When Wozniak said he was an unarmed civilian, the security officer walked away.

A few minutes later, Wheaton police, who had been contacted by a county employee, entered the office and detained Wozniak.

"About three or four officers came in, and two of them pointed their guns at me," Wozniak said. "I didn't know what was going on."

Wheaton police Chief Mark Field said the responding officers acted properly and handcuffed Wozniak as a precaution until they could get to the bottom of what happened.

Field said it didn't take long to determine Wozniak was simply wearing a cellphone case on his belt. "It ended up being a nothing incident," he said.

Wozniak said he has worn cellphone cases on his belt for years. "It has never been an issue for me," he said.

He said he has no plans to leave his cellphone at home when the electoral board hearing resumes on Monday.

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