Video at heart of excessive-force lawsuit against College of DuPage cops
A former College of DuPage student has filed a federal lawsuit against the college and two of its campus police officers alleging excessive force stemming from her arrest in December 2014.
Jaclyn Pazera, 27, of Willowbrook alleges in the suit that two officers forced her to the ground and manhandled her after "aggressively following her" and finding her sitting at a desk in a philosophy class. Pazera's attorney, Blake Horwitz released a video Thursday that he said shows the arrest and was shot by Pazera's teacher and saved to the teacher's hard drive.
College spokesman Randall Samborn said the college has launched an investigation into the suit's allegations.
"The College of DuPage just learned of, but has not yet reviewed, the lawsuit that was filed today," Samborn wrote in an email. "Student safety is of utmost importance to us. Of course, we will investigate to determine the facts and take appropriate action."
The events leading to her Dec. 7 arrest began when Pazera was smoking a cigarette outside the building during a break. According to the lawsuit, she was given a verbal warning regarding the college's smoke-free policy and asked to show her campus identification. Pazera told the officer she accepted the warning and returned to class.
According to the suit, two officers followed Pazera into the classroom. When asked if Pazera was his student, Pazera's teacher cited federal law and refused to give her name.
Pazera then showed her ID to the officers with her thumb covering everything but her picture, the ID's expiration date and the COD logo, the lawsuit says. The officers then accosted Pazera, according to the lawsuit.
According to court records, Pazera eventually was charged with misdemeanor counts of obstructing a peace officer and resisting a peace officer. Those charges were dropped Oct. 27, the day her case was to go to trial in DuPage County.
Pazera said she sustained several "recurring injuries" to her wrist and shoulder during the altercation and the lawsuit alleges one of the officers used a stun gun to threaten a witness who recorded the scene to surrender his phone.
Horwitz said his client hopes her lawsuit will bring about change and prevent future violations of students' rights.
"She wants people to know they can have a voice and speak out against abuse of power," Horwitz said.
Pazera also is seeking unspecified monetary damages and her legal fees, though Horwitz said he's "not sure that's her biggest concern."
The video released by Horwitz shows officers struggling with Pazera and demanding she "stop resisting." Pazera can be heard telling the officers she is not resisting and begging them to let her up.
"She was accosted quickly and was not allowed to get up," Horwitz said. "These two officers surrounded her. She was manhandled by men."
Pazera said she has avoided the campus and has not attended classes since her arrest.
"I haven't stepped foot there since this happened to me," she said Thursday.
No court date has been set yet for the suit, which was filed Wednesday in Chicago.