Chief: Officer's actions in Naperville North teen's suicide 'publicly mischaracterized'
The actions of the Naperville police officer named in a lawsuit after the suicide of a Naperville North High School student have been "publicly mischaracterized," Naperville police Chief Robert Marshall said Tuesday.
And while Marshall called the death of 16-year-old Corey Walgren an "unimaginable" tragedy, he said the police department cannot disclose details of the investigation into the teen's passing.
Naperville police officer Brett Heun is named in the suit filed on behalf of Douglas and Maureen Walgren, parents of the teen who took his own life Jan. 11 after being called to the dean's office and questioned.
When the lawsuit was filed last month, the city defended the officer's actions, with city attorney Mike DiSanto saying in a statement, "We are confident the school resource officer followed proper policies and procedures."
Marshall on Tuesday said the city can't disclose further details of the Walgren case because it involves minors, whose identities cannot be jeopardized. Making public the details of the investigation could create a "chilling effect" on teens reporting criminal activity such as cyber abuse, cyberbullying and harassment -- all of which are significant issues, Marshall said.
"Please be patient," he said to people who have "understandably raised questions" after the lawsuit was filed. "There will be a time in the legal process for the department to respond to the allegations."
The suit accuses Heun and Naperville North High School deans James Konrad and Stephen Madden of questioning Corey about an allegation of criminal wrongdoing without reading him his rights to have a lawyer and to remain silent, without immediately calling his parents and with "intent to cause Corey extreme and excessive psychological distress and fear."
The suit, filed in DuPage County court by attorney Terry Ekl, also names the city of Naperville and Naperville Unit District 203 as defendants. It seeks $5 million in damages for Corey's death.
The lawsuit claims Corey, a junior honor roll student with no disciplinary history, was "falsely" threatened by the officer and the deans that they knew he was in possession of child pornography and would need to register as a sex offender.
The suit claims the teen "escaped" the dean's office and exited the school before his mother could arrive, then "walked up to and off of the fifth level of a parking structure in downtown Naperville" and fell to his death.
Marshall said the grief the Walgren family must feel is "unimaginable to me" as a father of teenagers. He encouraged parents to speak with their children about the lasting risks of inappropriate uses of technology and social media.
"We must repeatedly remind our youth to act safely and responsibly online and with technology," he said.
He also encouraged students to seek help for any of the issues they face as teens.
"Do not be afraid to come forward. Do not feel that silence is the only answer," Marshall said. "You can come to a trusted adult for help and guidance."