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Local News

State's attorney clears cops in Eric Lurry OD death

Eric D. Lurry Jr., 37, died after being taken into Joliet police custody on Jan. 28.
Eric D. Lurry Jr., 37, died after being taken into Joliet police custody on Jan. 28.

The Will County State's Attorney's Office found no fault with the Joliet Police Department in connection with the death of a man who overdosed on drugs shortly after he was arrested.

Eric Lurry, 37, was arrested Jan. 28 at what police said was the scene of a drug deal.

"Eric Lurry's death was caused by the ingestion of fatal amounts of heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine, and did not result directly from any action or inaction by an officer of the Joliet Police Department," according to the Thursday memo from State's Attorney James Glasgow's office to the Will Grundy Major Crimes Task Force.

Squad car video from the day of Lurry's arrest shows him apparently losing consciousness while sitting alone in the rear seat of the vehicle on his way to the police department.

Police officers in the video can be heard saying that Lurry appeared to have something in his mouth after he is put into the car, and he can be seen regularly chewing before starting to lose consciousness as the car arrives at the station.

After a uniformed officer is unable to get Lurry out of the car, an undercover officer comes into the picture and appears to be trying to wake him up.

The undercover officer slaps Lurry at one point and says, "Wake up (expletive)." The uninformed officer is seen using his baton to probe Lurry's mouth in an apparent search for drugs. When they find them, the officer uses a gloved hand to remove several bags from Lurry's mouth.

The Will County Coroner's Office released a statement Thursday saying Lurry's death was "accident due to heroin, fentanyl and cocaine intoxication due to Mr. Lurry ingesting large quantities of the narcotics as depicted in the squad car video."

"The levels or concentrations" of the heroin, fentanyl and cocaine "were over 10 times the fatal range," according to the statement from the coroner's office.

The officers who transported Lurry to the police department called for an ambulance three minutes and four seconds after opening the back door of the squad car, said Deputy Police Chief Darrell Gavin.

Nineteen seconds later, a police sergeant goes inside for an automated external defibrillator and returns with it less than a minute later, Gavin said.

A fire department ambulance arrived three minutes and 34 seconds after the police called for one, Gavin said, and Lurry was transported to AMITA Saint Joseph Medical Center.

Hospital staff said Lurry was stable and in the Intensive Care Unit, Gavin said, but called again shortly before 3 a.m. the next day to tell police that Lurry had died.

Mayor Bob O'Dekirk is seeking an investigation of the matter by the Illinois Attorney General's office, drawing criticism from a group of Black church leaders who issued a statement saying the video shows the officers likely kept Lurry alive.

“We condemn in the strongest possible language Mayor Bob O’Dekirk’s continued abuse of power and smoke-and-mirror theatrics to deflect attention away from his own wrong doings,” said the statement from the Rev. Warren Dorris, the Rev. Herbert Brooks Jr. and Bishop Steven Evans.

O'Dekirk would not say why — or what — he wants the attorney general's office to investigate in relation to Lurry's death, which has already been investigated by the major crimes task force.

Asked whether the investigation was to focus on Lurry's death, his treatment by police officers or the fact that the city council did not see the squad car video until last week, City Councilman Larry Hug, who said he signed a letter requesting the investigation, said, "All of the above."

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