The family of Eric “BJ” Lurry, who died in police custody in January, joined the weekly protest at Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk’s home to demand his resignation, as well as the termination and arrest of police officers.
Lurry’s aunt Flowaya Mitchell grabbed a yellow megaphone and walked to the front lawn of O’Dekirk’s home to demand justice for her nephew.
“Come on out. You killed my nephew. You may as well say you did it,” Mitchell yelled while walking toward O’Dekirk’s home. “You let them do it. You let them get by with it. Come on out of there. Come on out, admit to your sin. They need to be fired.”
No one emerged from O’Dekirk’s home to meet with Mitchell or the crowd of more than two dozen protesters. The Sunday demonstration was the third and largest yet organized by Loretta Hobbs and the AndJustUs4All group outside the mayor’s home.
“We’re going to get loud,” Hobbs called out. “If you don’t like it then you need to tell this mayor to resign.”
The protests at O’Dekirk’s home began when video surfaced showing him at a May 31 Black Lives Matter rally grabbing Victor Williams and dragging him off before Williams' brother Jamal Smith intervened. The incident is under investigation by the Illinois State Police. The Will County State’s Attorney’s Office declined to file charges against Williams and Smith.
Lurry’s family, including his widow, Nicole Lurry, started protesting after squad video surfaced last week of Eric Lurry’s arrest. The video showed 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 in the car, and he can be seen regularly chewing before starting to lose consciousness as the car arrives at the station.
One officer slaps Eric Lurry at one point and says, "Wake up (expletive)." Another officer is seen using his baton to probe Eric Lurry's mouth in an apparent search for drugs. When they find them, the officer uses a gloved hand to remove several bags from Eric Lurry's mouth.
Lurry's death was investigated by the Will Grundy Major Crimes Task Force. The state’s attorney’s office determined the Joliet police committed no criminal wrongdoing. The Will County Coroner's Office ruled Lurry's death was accidental and due to fatal intoxication from heroin, fentanyl and cocaine.
Eric Lurry’s great aunt Minerva Sneed of Columbus, Ohio, was with her boyfriend at Sunday’s protest.She estimated the bulk of the protesters were Lurry’s family relatives.
“This mayor is the boss and he’s responsible. That’s why I’m here,” Sneed said, adding, “Why did the mayor allow them to hide the video?”
Sneed and the other protesters chanted “No justice, no peace” and “Justice for BJ” outside O’Dekirk’s home. Several Joliet police officers stood nearby during the protest.
At one point, the protesters formed a circle on the street and raised their right fists during a moment of silence.
Afterward, Eric Lurry’s great aunt Felicia Hinton said her great nephew “couldn’t breath,” referring to the moment in the squad video when an officer pinched his nose.
“They didn’t try to revive him at all. There was no help nowhere in sight. We watched it over and over and some of us like myself couldn’t even watch all of it and it wasn’t that long,” Hinton said.
Hinton told the crowd to keep protesting and hold O’Dekirk and the police department accountable.
“Right now we're protesting for everybody,” Hinton said, “All the murdered boys, all the murdered girls, all the murdered kids. They're supposed to serve and protect us. Not kill us.”
Eric Lurry’s cousin Meshona Mitchell yelled into a megaphone to demand O’Dekirk come out of his house.
“We demand justice. We demand an arrest today. Bob O’Dekirk, come show your face to Eric’s family. We demand to see you. We demand answers, We demand justice today,” she said.
Eric Lurry’s sister Shayla Lurry said she did not think what happened to her brother was justified.
“I never thought it would be my own family,” she said.
Nicole Lurry said she went to the mayor’s home because she wanted “justice for my husband.”
Sneed said Lurry’s family intends to bring national attention to his death and plans to contact the NAACP, ACLU and civil rights activists Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.
“These officers have to know how families are feeling," Sneed said. "What if it it was their family that’s beaten, shot, killed, all that? What if it was your family?”