Special prosecutor to probe actions of Elgin cop after New Year's brawl

and Adam Kovac
Daily Herald Staff
Updated 1/19/2008 12:43 AM

A special prosecutor has been appointed to investigate whether an off-duty Elgin police officer committed a crime after a New Year's Eve brawl at an Elgin hotel, authorities said Friday.

Officer Chris Darr was assigned to desk duty after the incident at the Holiday Inn in which his father, former Elgin Police Chief Jack Darr, was seriously hurt and nine people were arrested.


Chris Darr has not been charged with any wrongdoing, but the Illinois appellate prosecutor's office will investigate the incident to avoid a potential conflict with Kane County prosecutors, State's Attorney John Barsanti said.

Because Kane County prosecutors work with Elgin police on a daily basis, Barsanti said he asked the department to seek another agency to investigate Chris Darr's actions.

"Some of the witnesses are officers, and we have relationships with some of these guys," Barsanti said. "And you don't want to taint the way this is dealt with."

Michael Oppenheimer, a Chicago-based defense attorney retained by Kevin D. Schwartz, one of nine arrested in the melee, on Friday accused Chris Darr of assaulting Schwartz.

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Schwartz was pulled over and arrested on Route 31 shortly after the brawl.

Oppenheimer said he believes Darr heard about the incident on his police radio and got into the back seat of a squad car with a handcuffed Schwartz.

"Somehow, officer Darr got into the car in which my client was handcuffed and beat him about the face and body," Oppenheimer said. "(Darr) beat him pretty good."

Three days after the melee at the hotel, Police Chief Lisa Womack said: "I won't tolerate the behavior alleged, but I have to make sure we do (investigate) it right -- for everyone involved, including the officer."

Lt. Cecil Smith, Elgin police spokesman, said Chris Darr this week was stripped of his badge and gun and placed on "restricted duty" with the department.


Smith said that under Darr's current assignment with the department's Emergency Management Section, he has no powers of arrest and no contact with the public.

"He will remain on restricted duty here at the station until or if he is charged with something criminally," Smith said. "After (the special prosecutor's) investigation is complete, we will conduct our investigation as to the circumstances surrounding the incident."

Chris Darr has declined to comment; Tim O'Neil, an attorney representing him, has not returned phone messages for two weeks.

A 25-year veteran of the force, Jack Darr retired in March 2000 and was working as chief of security at the Holiday Inn on Airport Road on New Year's Eve.

A fight broke out about 2 a.m. on the hotel's eighth floor after a group of men were barred from a private party. The elder Darr and his partner responded and were beaten before officers arrived, police have said.

The 59-year-old Darr suffered broken ribs, a punctured lung and other injuries. His partner, James Elwood, 31, suffered several cuts after a beer bottle was smashed over his head, police said.

Six men and three women were arrested on various offenses, ranging from aggravated battery, armed violence, mob action and obstructing a peace officer, court records show.

Oppenheimer said Schwartz was at the hotel that night but did not participate in the fight.

Schwartz, who is free on bond with a Feb. 21 court date, was headed home from a party at the hotel and plans to fight the felony mob action charges against him, Oppenheimer said.

Oppenheimer also said he plans to file a lawsuit in federal court in the future.

The Daily Herald filed a Freedom of Information Act request Jan. 3 with the police department and city about Darr's conduct.

Under Illinois law, respondents have seven business days to comply with, deny or ask for more time with the FOIA request.

As of Friday, the city and the department had not contacted the Daily Herald regarding the request.

Last week, Police Chief Lisa Womack said the department would release information about those arrested in the Jan. 1 incident but information about Darr was restricted.


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