Police brutality happens close to home

By Anthony Gavrilchenko, Columnist

Imagine the trademarks of an authoritarian police state: random warrantless arrests, no officer accountability and excessive militarization. Newsmax qualifies such an institution as having a secretive bureaucracy, perpetual conflict, mass surveillance, widespread police presence and a citizenry powerless against their abuse.

American national Christopher Hansen witnessed all of above and more in 2015 and is still dealing with the effects of his unjust incarceration to this day. Although some Champaign citizens may assume his experiences to have taken place in a far-off foreign regime, it comes as no surprise to those cognizant of American police violence that this brutality occurred off Springfield and First.

In an online testimony on corruptcu.com, Hansen detailed his interactions with a “corrupt, violent and incompetent police force, a savage and malignant county jail, willfully negligent news agencies, and a downright malicious close friend of the past mayor of Champaign.”

A deeper investigation into the police reports, court filings, civilian correspondence and interviews with Mr. Hansen and police officials make the flagrant abuse of power that took place on August 22, 2015 very clear.

Hansen was identified during the arrest due to his misfortune of being the first male seen matching the suspect description of a black shirt and blue jeans. Not having broken any traffic laws, Hansen was stopped by 9 unmarked vehicles all flashing their emergency lights. Cracking his window open and putting his hands on the wheel, Hansen was immediately ordered to exit, with the officers refusing to identify themselves or explain their reason for the traffic stop.

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    The officers began yelling 40 seconds into the stop, with weapons drawn at 50 seconds and Hansen’s window broken at the 64 second mark. After being told the officers “didn’t care” about his lack of consent while searching his person and vehicle, Hansen was mocked: “You may think you know your rights, but you don’t.”

    Hansen then spent 15 hours in solitary confinement, lying naked (forcibly stripped of his clothes) on a straight-jacket near a puddle of urine and denied medical care for his open wounds. 8 hours in, a nurse entered the room only to deny Hansen medication for his blood clotting disorder.

    Mr. Hansen is a small business owner, a graduate of the College of Engineering at the University and a 16-year resident of Champaign. That same night, his accuser Jennifer Ryan (50-year-old socialite in a relationship with the former mayor of Champaign Don Gerard) lost her purse and proclaimed it stolen.

    University professor Zuofu Cheng, a close friend of Ryan who had been by her side for most of the night, stated on record, “Jen was really drunk.” Cheng also indicated he felt Ryan had made up such stories of robbery in the past, with five such incidents before and two after Hansen’s 2015 arrest. The owner of Quality Bar, Aaron Van Natta, confirmed Ryan was walking around erratically, “babbling about losing her dad’s credit card.”

    Quality Bar manager Terry Boyer indicated Ryan had “wandered off before police arrived, and they had to go searching for her,” describing her as “completely wasted … teetering back and forth as she spoke to the cops like she was about to fall over.”

    Police dash cam footage reveals inappropriate dialogue between Jennifer Ryan and Officer Thompson wherein both adults giggle gleefully at Mr. Hansen, suggesting “kicking him in the nuts” to an officer. Inebriated and intoxicated, Ryan “positively identified” Hansen after only catching a glimpse of the side of his head for a fraction of a second, 30 feet away, at night, through a windshield and without her glasses (allegedly stolen with the purse). Officer Nathanael Epling would later deem her impaired to the point where he would not let Ryan drive herself home.

    Ryan apparently spent the next 36 hours after Hansen’s arrest collecting her phone, purse and other belongings she had lost in various bars. The owner of Mike ‘N Molly’s bar later told Hansen that Jennifer Ryan had left her cell phone there the night of the robbery, returning later that weekend with her purse to collect it.

    As collected and documented by Mr. Hansen in the following months, an overwhelming amount of double-and triple-checked evidence from 83 security cameras and a dozen witnesses corroborated a situation in which the crime could never have happened as described. Investigator Steve Guess at the Public Defender’s Office examined video evidence from multiple cameras directly outside the alleged robbery location, finding no plausible suspect running or walking with a purse.

    Three businesses owned by Carlos Nieto, a friend of Ryan, all failed to provide the requested video evidence which would have proved Hansen to have been in the Blind Pig for the entirety of the alleged robbery. Nieto also has an ongoing association with Ryan’s boyfriend and high school friend of his, former mayor Don Gerard.

    Out of the establishments Cowboy Monkey, Guido’s Bar and Grill and Seven Saints, one flat-out refused to communicate and another claimed to have lost all security footage. Three days after, the facility manager was able to privately send Hansen several still shots from their video system, captioned, “Here is what I am able to give you.”

    The third business was found to have overwritten the video from that night (and that night only) with video from a different night. The technician was dumbfounded and Investigator Guess even used the phrase “foul play.”

    I implore anyone interested in this case to read the whole story at corruptcu.com. It should be obvious to anyone supporting criminal justice that Jennifer Ryan at the very least committed flagrant fraud, plausibly using personal connections with former mayor Don Gerard to influence the Champaign police department into a miscarriage of justice. If the residents of Champaign cannot reasonably trust their police department to uphold the law in a fair and proper manner even to a model citizen such as Hansen, how can anyone hope to maintain law and order? Who can we turn to when the police are suspect?

    Anthony is a freshman in LAS.

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