Elgin officer suspended after resident complains about son being pepper-sprayed

An Elgin policeman was suspended three days after a woman filed a complaint about the arrest of her sons.

Sgt. Travis Hooker's suspension took effect Oct. 31, nearly four months after Melissa Sanders' sons, 15 and 21, were arrested July 2 after a neighbor called police about loud music at an outdoor gathering. The 21-year-old was pepper-sprayed by Hooker and both young men were charged with resisting a police officer.

A police review determined the arrests and use of pepper spray were appropriate, but Hooker violated department rules and policies because he acted too quickly and didn't attempt to de-escalate the situation, according to documents obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request.

"Your actions contributed to a deterioration of the situation," Police Chief Jeff Swoboda stated in Hooker's disciplinary action report.

Names were redacted from the documents provided by the city. Sanders identified herself and her 21-year-old son, Raquan Dunigan, to the Daily Herald, which does not name juveniles.

Hooker and other officers said they found a crowd of 20 to 30 people gathered in a driveway on the 400 block of Ann Street, documents show. That was the second loud music complaint by neighbors that night. When officers arrived the music had been turned down. The air smelled like fireworks had recently been detonated.

Swoboda and other department members reviewed body camera footage, which they said shows Hooker attempted to seize a stereo speaker within 30 seconds of his arrival. The 15-year-old physically tried to stop Hooker from taking the stereo and was arrested, police said. Hooker warned the "hostile" crowd that he would use his pepper spray if people didn't back away, and sprayed Dunigan after he tried to block Hooker's and other officers' path.

Hooker told the Daily Herald he takes responsibility for his part, and said he mistakenly believed it was the fourth call at that address that night.

"We had a lot of outstanding calls for service and we were trying to get through them as quickly as possible. I made a hurried decision to act and stop a repeated issue," Hooker said. "Unfortunately, criminal acts occurred by the people that were there, and I had to take action."

Dunigan pleaded guilty in August to resisting a police officer and was sentenced to 100 days of community service and nonreporting probation through July 2018, Kane County court records show. He was cited with violating Elgin's cannabis ordinance.

Sanders said her younger son was charged with battery and has a Dec. 1 court date.

Hooker's three-day suspension was "a slap on the wrist," Sanders said. "There was no reason (for the arrests). A radio? And all this comes out? (Hooker) needs to feel what he does to people and sit behind bars."

Since the episode Hooker has received training for new supervisors and training on mindfulness and cognitive fitness, Swoboda said.

"If an employee recognizes they didn't act in a manner that meets their own expectations and ours - and they own that - that goes a long way," Swoboda said.

Hooker received a three-day suspension for incidents in late 2015. He was promoted to sergeant in April 2016 when he was at the top of the promotions list.

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