JOLIET, IL — Joliet Police Sgt. Javier Esqueda has added his name to a letter sent this week to Washington, D.C.’s most powerful politicians from both political parties. The letter calls for national police reform and providing more safeguards to protect police officers like Esqueda and legendary New York City police officer Frank Serpico from retaliation and payback.
“Now more than ever before, America is blowing the whistle on deeply ingrained abuses. The truth is changing the course of history. Congressional and local leaders are proposing sweeping reforms. It is long overdue that America holds our profession accountable,” the first paragraph of the letter signed by Esqueda and Serpico reads.
A copy of the entire letter sent to Congressional leaders is at the bottom of this Joliet Patch article.
By last summer, Esqueda sensed that fellow Joliet police officers and supervisors engaged in corruption and evidence tampering as Esqueda reviewed the actions of his colleagues surrounding the death of Eric Lurry, a Black man from Joliet.
Esqueda had been on the Joliet police force for 27 years at the time and he was a field training supervisor. One of the officers involved in Lurry’s death was a rookie patrolman Esqueda was responsible for mentoring.
In late January 2020, Lurry began overdosing in the back of a Joliet police car after ingesting drugs that he concealed inside his mouth. The two Joliet officers who put Lurry under arrest and into their squad car that afternoon, Officers Jose Tellez and Andrew McCue, both overlooked the fact that Lurry had drugs in his possession at the time of his arrest.
Last summer, Esqueda spoke with CBS Chicago Channel 2 investigative reporter Dave Savini surrounding Esqueda’s belief of corruption within Joliet’s Police Department involving the death of Lurry. He suspected that evidence was being destroyed in the case, evidence that others at the Joliet Police Department did not want anybody to know about.
Weeks later, the administration of Joliet Police Chief Al Roechner chose to punish Esqueda, charging him with several crimes of official misconduct for his role in accessing Joliet police videotapes surrounding Lurry’s drug overdose.
As Lurry began to overdose, several officers and Joliet police supervisors gathered around Lurry at the police car, and they were not in a hurry to summon the Joliet Fire Department to send an ambulance in hopes of preventing Lurry from dying.
Lurry was pronounced dead several hours later at Joliet’s St. Joe’s hospital. He never regained consciousness after ingesting the drugs in the presence of two Joliet officers assigned to monitor him.
Nowadays, McCue, Tellez and Sgt. Doug May and Lt. Jeremy Harrison are all codefendants in a federal wrongful death lawsuit filed by the widow of Eric Lurry against the Joliet Police Department. A Chicago law firm representing Nicole Lurry contends that Sgt. May was responsible for killing the 37-year-old Lurry.
“At that time, Defendants McCue, Tellez, May and Harrison immediately recognized that Mr. Lurry was in medical distress and not fully conscious,” the Chicago law firm of Erickson & Oppenheimer argued. “Despite Mr. Lurry’s obvious serious medical needs, no Defendant summoned medical attention for Mr. Lurry at that time. Instead, Defendants May and McCue attempted to retrieve bags containing narcotics from Mr. Lurry’s mouth.
“In doing so, Defendant May pinched Mr. Lurry’s nose for approximately close to two minutes, restricting him from taking in oxygen,” the Chicago civil rights lawsuit outlines. ” Defendant May also slapped Mr. Lurry in the face while saying, ‘Wake up, bitch!'”
Last summer, the death of Lurry sparked several protests and demonstrations across the Joliet area.
In recent days, Joliet’s new city manager Jim Capparelli restored Esqueda to the city’s work force, assigning him to handle business license regulations at City Hall while Esqueda’s criminal charges remain pending in neighboring Kendall County.
This week, Esqueda’s name is being discussed by leaders of Congress, where federal politicians in Washington, D.C. are discussing national police reforms.
Some proposals call for more protection and safeguards to protect police officers such as Joliet’s Esqueda from being targeted, punished, harassed and disciplined for speaking up when they see corruption within the ranks of their respective police departments.
The first name on the letter sent to Congress is a name that millions of people across the country already know: legendary New York City Police Department whistleblower Frank Serpico, whose story about exposing New York City police corruption became the hit 1973 movie called “Serpico.” which led to Al Pacino’s first Golden Globe award.
In addition to Serpico, Esqueda’s name is also on the letter submitted to Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and other powerful leaders in the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.