By Garrett Ordower
Daily Herald Staff Writer
July 13, 2005
One cop. Two brothers. Two seconds. Two stories.
It happened that quickly.
Police officer Scott Crawford watched as Brian Gaughan, 21, argued with a 25-year-old man during Marengo’s annual Settlers’ Days festival last October.
He approached the men and told them they had two seconds to break it up.
Gaughan started walking away, but as he left he mouthed off “One, Two” to the officer. In seconds, he and his brother, Kevin, 18, were in jail, looking at charges that could put each away for years, and put their futures in peril.
The Gaughans stand accused of aggravated battery and resisting arrest. They claimed Crawford used excessive force but now also face charges of filing a false police report after the Illinois State Police exonerated the officer.
Numerous attempts to reach Crawford have been unsuccessful, including a letter hand-delivered to his residence that explained the allegations being made against him and asked for his comment for this story.
Fraternal Order of Police labor counsel Erika Raskopf said Crawford has “a good work ethic, he’s been commended, and I think he’s a solid officer.”
In his two years on Marengo’s force, Crawford has been the subject of six investigations, two for excessive force.
While he was cleared in half of them, including both excessive force claims, Crawford currently is suspended pending the outcome of three of the investigations. Marengo’s police commission soon will decide whether Crawford will be fired, the punishment his chief is seeking.
Raskopf is representing Crawford on those charges. “We’re just going to try the case before the board and be confident that he’ll be able to keep his job,” she said.
The Gaughan brothers’ parents also are confident in their sons’ innocence. Having both worked as police officers, they refuse to believe their sons would assault one of their own. They don’t believe they were that disrespectful, or, at least, that stupid. That led them to hire a private investigator, who discovered several previous charges of alleged misconduct against the 26-year-old officer, including a videotaped beating of a suspect that led to his resignation from the Waukegan Police Department.
The Gaughan brothers likely could have pleaded guilty to lesser charges and been done with the case without endangering their futures.
Kevin Gaughan, a Northern Illinois University student, aspires to be a banker or lawyer. Brian Gaughan wants to follow in his father’s footsteps, becoming a firefighter or possibly a police officer. With felony convictions, he can’t be either.
So, their father, former Arlington Heights police officer and current Glenview firefighter Brian Gaughan Sr., opted to spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours clearing their names.
“We raised our children to believe what’s right is right and that’s it,” Gaughan Sr. said. “There’s no compromise. You don’t admit you did something you didn’t do so you don’t get your hand slapped as hard. That’s not the way the system is supposed to work. If we have to sell the house to finance this, that’s what we’ll do.”
Gaughan Sr. initially took a different tack in trying to clear his sons’ names. Within days of the arrest, the Gaughan family asked Marengo Police Chief Les Kottke to contact the Illinois State Police and begin an investigation into whether Crawford used excessive force.
About a month later, Kottke wrote a memo to Crawford indicating the probe was complete and he could return to duty from paid administrative leave. The state police had cleared Crawford of any wrongdoing, but it began pressing Kevin and Brian Gaughan about why the argument started and their previous statements to police.
Gaughan Sr. became wary. He hired private investigator Paul Ciolino to look into the incident himself. Both brothers also passed privately administered lie detector tests backing up their version of events, according to a transcript of the examination.
Ciolino found witnesses backing up the brothers as well as other claims of misconduct by Crawford.
The Gaughans and three others expect to file a federal lawsuit against Crawford, two other officers and Marengo claiming civil rights violations, excessive force, malicious prosecution and negligent hiring.
Illinois State Police Special Agent William Kroncke, who investigated the case, and Master Sergeant Joe Perez, who oversaw it, both declined to comment on the specifics of their investigation of the Gaughan arrest, but they said the excessive force charges were thoroughly probed.
“I’m confident this investigation was fully investigated,” Perez said.
The Round Lake Heights Police Department has kept Crawford on part time, where he has been working 16 hours a week since November 2002.
“He does a great job for me,” Round Lake Heights Police Chief Don Johnson said.
‘I didn’t, you did’
One cop. Two brothers. Two seconds. Two stories.
Brian Gaughan approached Shawn Scott at Settlers’ Days about a skateboard taken from Brian’s 14-year-old brother, Patrick. To most idling around the two men, the argument seemed more like a discussion.
“It was actually more of an under-the-breath argument, not loud,” said Robert Beauchamp, 19, in one of several sworn statements given to private investigator Ciolino.
Beauchamp could overhear Crawford talking to fellow officer Kelly Given. Crawford said if “these two kids don’t leave each other alone, he’s going to step in and arrest them.”
“Crawford, he was like viciously smoking a cigarette, standing there,” Beauchamp said in the sworn statement. “He flicked his cigarette on the ground and got up in their face.”
Crawford asked Gaughan for his identification. He already knew Scott, as the two had numerous earlier run-ins, according to the statement.
“They just told us to break it up and that we both had two seconds or two minutes to get off the property, or else we were going to jail,” Scott said in a sworn statement. “And Brian just started walking away.
“He just looked back and said, ‘One, two.’æ”
According to Crawford’s report, Gaughan “ignored (me) and continued to walk further into the carnival area.”
Gaughan said he assumed he and Scott should walk in opposite directions.
After Gaughan said he looked back and mouthed off with the “One, Two” remark, Crawford told him to stop, that he was under arrest.
Charge: misdemeanor criminal trespass to state-supported land.
Crawford handcuffed Gaughan and, in his report, said he tried to break free.
But sworn witness statements given to Ciolino said Crawford was twisting Gaughan’s arms by yanking the handcuffs into the air as he walked him to the police station about 100 feet away.
Gaughan fell to the asphalt, landing first on his knees and then on his face.
“Crawford then grabbed him, kind of tripped him and threw him to the ground,” said 19-year-old Adam J. Johnson in a sworn statement to Ciolino.
Crawford’s police report said Gaughan “threw himself to the ground and began screaming.”
Charge: misdemeanor resisting a police officer.
Crawford said when he grabbed Gaughan’s wrists to get him off the ground, Gaughan dug his fingernails into Crawford’s wrists.
Charge: felony aggravated battery.
Then Kevin Gaughan rushed to his brother’s aid. According to Crawford’s report, he lunged into the officer’s shoulder and nearly knocked him over.
“Brian’s brother started to help because you could hear him screaming in pain still, I guess,” said Matt Hughes, 15, in a sworn statement. “And that’s when (Kevin) kind of put his hand on Crawford’s shoulder to look at his brother and everything, and the lady (Officer Given) grabbed him really hard and put handcuffs on him.”
Charges: felony aggravated battery and misdemeanor resisting a police officer.
As Crawford corralled Brian Gaughan into the police station, those looking on outside caught one last glimpse of what happened inside.
“As they are turning to shut the door, Officer Crawford … pushed him into the wall,” 15-year-old Michael Hensley said in a sworn statement.
The station’s drywall was damaged when, according to Crawford’s report, Gaughan purposely rammed his head into it.
Charge: felony criminal damage to state-supported property.
“As I walked through the door, my arms were lifted up and forced forward, causing my head to hit the wall extremely hard,” Gaughan said in his complaint to the state police. “I asked, ‘Why did you do that?’ and Crawford replied, ‘I didn’t, you did.’æ”
Crawford declined to comment many times, but an examination of his personnel file obtained by the Daily Herald reveals an officer whose supervisors thought had great enthusiasm. They also cautioned he needed to show restraint.
“Ofc. Crawford in this rater’s opinion is a highly motivated officer, he enjoys the work he does, and he sets high standards for himself,” his sergeant wrote in his 15-month evaluation in Marengo. “Ofc. Crawford shows great drive, ambition and determination. With these qualities he would make an excellent detective or investigator. Ofc. Crawford’s aggressiveness requires a great demand of self discipline, it is easier to step back and re-evaluate the situation at hand rather than jumping forward with both feet.”
He was hired as a Waukegan police officer in 2000 for $43,200 a year. On his Marengo application, he said he left the more lucrative Waukegan job for “personal reasons” and answered “No” when asked if he had ever been forced to resign.
But one former official acknowledged they knew an officer didn’t decide to leave a job to make about $10,000 less a year without good reason.
“He was a young officer who had a couple of problems where he had been, and there was some concern,” said former Marengo police commission head Pat Shelton.
Within months of coming to the department, Crawford received a commendation from the Department of Children and Family Services for helping with two children left home alone as well as two for finding $40,000 of possible drug money and for breaking up a large street brawl.
Within six months, he was named to the McHenry County Gang Task Force, a post he held until his recent suspension.
Jose Gonzalez-Suarez had been drinking. After parking his car outside his Waukegan home in the early morning hours, the 18-year-old sat in the driver’s seat and smoked a cigarette.
The license plates on the worn Chevy Cavalier he had recently bought weren’t his. So when a police car pulled up behind him, he later told police, he left the keys in the ignition and walked away.
The man’s neighbor had gotten up to use the bathroom about 2:30 a.m., saw the police car pull up and Gonzalez-Suarez walk toward his home.
The neighbor told police he heard the officer yell at and then handcuff Gonzalez-Suarez during the 2001 incident.
“The officer then began yelling in Jose’s face,” a police report said. “(The neighbor) could not make out the words. (The neighbor) then observed the officer strike Jose to the side and back of his head with an open hand three times.”
He turned Gonzalez-Suarez around to place him in the car, and the officer “kicked him like a dog,” the report said.
The neighbor got his video camera. As the neighbor and his wife talk in hushed tones, the officer on the videotape steps out of his squad car and opens the back door.
“It appeared Officer Crawford is having words with Mr. Gonzalez,” the police report obtained by the Daily Herald reads. “Officer Crawford then strikes Mr. Gonzalez with his left hand two separate times.”
A videotape of the incident shows what is described in the police report. It never was made public until now.
About a month after a Waukegan sergeant interviewed the neighbor and wrote the report, arrangements were made by attorneys representing the department and Crawford for his resignation, according to memos obtained by the Daily Herald. The charges against Gonzalez-Suarez alleging obstructing justice, resisting arrest and driving under the influence of alcohol were dropped.
Under the terms of a May 2003 severance agreement, anyone asking about Crawford would be told: “At the time of Officer Crawford’s resignation, he was a member in good standing of the department.”
A federal lawsuit filed on behalf of Gonzalez-Suarez alleging battery, false arrest and malicious prosecution was settled by Crawford and the department for an undisclosed amount, said Gonzalez-Suarez’s attorney, Jed Stone.
Cause for concern?
One year after being hired in Marengo, in February 2004, Crawford received “comments of concern” about his arrest of a man who had outstanding warrants, including one for aggravated battery to a police officer.
A memo from then-Chief Larry Mason notes Crawford went to serve the warrant with others, but when they couldn’t find the man, he hung back alone. When the suspect arrived, he saw Crawford and fled. Crawford gave chase, catching him and using pepper spray to end a struggle.
“The proper procedure would have been to contact backup, wait for them to arrive and then deal with the situation,” Mason wrote in a memo. “This would have been the safe and proper way to handle this matter. … Again, we do not want to stifle your dedication to enforcement activities, but we are concerned about this type of activity.”
Eight months after that arrest the Gaughan brothers went to the Settlers’ Day festival.
Private investigator Ciolino’s inquiries turned up other allegations expected to be part of the federal lawsuit. Some of the sworn statements were given with a Daily Herald reporter present. Those expected to allege excessive force in the suit include:
- Nichole Surber, 16, who broke free of handcuffs during an underage drinking arrest and tried to run. She alleges in a sworn statement that Crawford tackled her, and two other officers kept her on the ground while a police dog bit her.
“The whole time I was screaming because I couldn’t breathe and none of them would get up,” Surber said in a sworn statement.
Crawford later pulled her out of a squad car by her ankles, she said, slamming her head on the ground after she kicked at the car’s window.
- Zachary McMackin, 17, ran from Crawford during an underage drinking arrest. According to his sworn statement, Crawford later forced him to the ground, handcuffed him, hit him in the back of the head and emptied a can of pepper spray into his face.
As Ciolino investigated the Gaughan incident and the other allegations, the state police and the McHenry County state’s attorney decided the brothers committed a crime when they signed their complaints against Crawford, Special Agent William Kroncke said.
Charge: felony filing a false police report.
A grand jury agreed.
On March 1, as Brian Gaughan walked out of a barn where he had been rebuilding an engine, nearly a dozen McHenry County sheriff’s officers and Illinois State Police started yelling at him to put his hands in the air. If convicted, he faces up to 13 years in prison.
A similar police crew showed up in DeKalb to arrest Kevin Gaughan at his apartment. He faces nine years in prison.
A police family
Perhaps no one has been so surprised at the Gaughan family being on the wrong side of the police as the Gaughan family.
The family doesn’t have a problem with law enforcement. The family is law enforcement.
In addition to Gaughan Sr.’s law enforcement work, Carolyn Gaughan currently is a guard at the McHenry County jail.
At 20 years old, Gaughan Sr. left his hometown of Chicago to become a Davenport, Iowa, police officer, where he met Carolyn, his training officer.
In 1984, after she had been on the Davenport force for 10 years, and he for four, they decided to settle in Marengo.
He took a job with the Arlington Heights Police Department, and she worked for the Bartlett and Bull Valley police departments, and Motorola before becoming a jail guard.
In 1989, Gaughan Sr. decided to leave the police department to become a firefighter, believing that would give him more opportunity to help people.
So the Gaughan family didn’t exactly expect what was to come.
“I’ve been around policemen my whole life and I’ve never seen anything as appalling as what happened to my own children,” Carolyn Gaughan said.
The Gaughan brothers case remains in the pretrial stage.
On April 7 of this year, Crawford was placed on paid administrative leave pending internal investigations for three “violations of department policy” stemming from a high-speed chase, an incident involving a “hostile” work environment, and a charge of lying on his job application.
In June, the Marengo Police Department suspended Crawford without pay and set a police commission meeting to decide his fate that is set, after a delay, for Aug. 2 and, if necessary, Aug. 3.
One cop. Two brothers. Two seconds. Two stories.
Of his sons, Gaughan Sr, said, “We’re not going to have their career paths derailed because of this rogue policeman.”
Of her client, Crawford’s attorney Erika Raskopf said, “There’s always two sides to a story, and we’ll wait to have our case tried not in the media but before the board.”