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Illinois Cop Charged With Multiple Felonies After Allegedly Hitting, Tasing Disabled Man On Gurney

Washington Park, IL – A Washington Park police officer has been charged with multiple felonies after allegedly using a stun gun on a combative suspect with intellectual disabilities in March while the suspect was strapped to an ambulance gurney.

The incident occurred on March 19 at a residence located near Bunkum Road and 45th Street, the Belleville News-Democrat reported.

The Illinois Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) Zone 6 said Washington Park Police Officer Justin Gaither, 32, responded to the home after receiving a call for service there.

The DCI did not specify the nature of the original call, the Belleville News-Democrat reported.

When he arrived at the scene, Officer Gaither made contact with 19-year-old Larry Shaw, KSDK reported.

The DCI said the officer had dealt with Shaw in the past and was aware he has a profound or severe intellectual disability.

Shaw’s stepfather, David Johnson, told KSDK in early April that Shaw has autism and bipolar disorder, as well as an intellectual disability.

Johnson said Shaw also calls police frequently.

“He gets upset about some things and he might want to talk to somebody else besides us, so he wants to talk to a police officer,” Johnson told KSDK.

He said that was what happened on March 19.

Shaw said he and Officer Gaither, who has had contact with Shaw on many occasions, began talking casually in the kitchen, but that the conversation soon turned into a violent confrontation, KSDK reported.

It is unclear what triggered the confrontation.

“I walked away and went to my room because I wanted to be a better man,” Shaw told KSDK. “We got into a fight and then he started swinging me to the floor. I said ‘Can you let go?'”

According to Shaw, Officer Gaither handcuffed him and took him out to his patrol car, where he allegedly made him sit on spike strips.

“I was crying, but I didn’t know what to do,” Shaw told KSDK.

Johnson said Officer Gaither let Shaw out of the cruiser at one point, which subsequently resulted in another physical altercation.

“Yes, I grabbed his walkie talkie and then he started punching me,” Shaw told KSDK.

An ambulance crew arrived at the scene and Shaw was strapped to a gurney, according to the Illinois State Police (ISP).

That’s when, according to investigators, Officer Gaither hit Shaw in the face and shocked him with a stun gun, KSDK reported.

Shaw told the news outlet he was partially handcuffed and suffering a seizure when the alleged assault occurred.

“The EMS and the East St. Louis police officers said ‘stop, don’t do that, that isn’t right,'” Johnson claimed.

Shaw was subsequently transported to the hospital for treatment, KSDK reported.

Officer Gaither was placed on administrative leave earlier in April while the DCI conducted a use-of-force investigation, according to the news outlet.

The St. Clair County State’s Attorney’s Office charged Officer Gaither with multiple offenses on April 25.

He turned himself in to police later the same day, the Belleville News-Democrat reported.

Officer Gaither now faces four counts of aggravated battery and two counts of official misconduct.

He posted bond and was released from custody shortly after his surrender, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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Written by Holly Matkin


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