Chicago Cop With Checkered Past Under Criminal Investigation For Vicious Beating Outside Popular Bar

Hours after the brutal beating of two men outside an Andersonville neighborhood nightclub, two friends of an off-duty Chicago police sergeant implicated him in the attack under questioning by a Chicago police detective.

The next day, a friend of the victims picked out Sgt. Eric Elkins “immediately and without hesitation” as the main assailant when detectives showed him a photo array of suspects, police reports show.

“He’s the drunk guy that was kicking (victims) outside,” a detective’s report quoted the witness as saying as he circled Elkins’ photo.

More than a month after that identification, though, no charges have been filed against the 19-year police veteran in the attack outside @mosphere, a gay club in the 5300 block of North Clark Street, on Sept. 29.

On Wednesday, Anthony Guglielmi, a Chicago police spokesman, called Elkins “a person of interest” in the beating and said the investigation “is still continuing.”

“It’s about building the strongest case possible,” Guglielmi said. “It’s a decision that will be made jointly with prosecutors.”

The Cook County state’s attorney’s office declined to comment.

Attorney Timothy Cavanagh, who has filed a personal injury lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court against Elkins, blasted the delay in bringing criminal charges despite the positive identification.

“It’s a code of silence. They protect their own,” Cavanagh said. “They had probable cause to arrest (Elkins) weeks ago. But because it’s a Chicago police sergeant, nothing.”

The beating left both victims with serious injuries — a compound leg fracture for John Sherwood and broken cheekbones and a perforated trachea for his longtime partner, Tom Stacha.

The suit also names as defendants an Oak Park police officer — identified as Elkins’ boyfriend in a police interview — as well as two of their friends.

Records show Elkins has a checkered history with the Police Department. In nearly two decades on the force, he has amassed at least 35 citizen complaints, including allegations of illegal searches, neglect of duty, profanity, theft and sexual harassment. He has never been disciplined, though, because the city’s police oversight agencies — much maligned over the years — never sustained a single allegation against him, records show.

Elkins has also twice faced criminal charges involving alleged sexual encounters with teenage boys.

As a young patrolman in 2003, he was charged with sexually abusing a male student while moonlighting as a security guard at a North Side high school, records show. He was later acquitted in a bench trial by a Cook County judge who said there were too many holes in the victim’s testimony. Elkins remained on the force and was promoted to sergeant in 2007.

Two years ago, Elkins was charged in Michigan on allegations he sexually abused a teen at a family party the year earlier, records show. But he pleaded guilty in August 2016 to a misdemeanor battery count in exchange for probation and a small fine. More than two years later, he remains on paid desk duty — earning a $105,000-a-year salary — pending the outcome of a disciplinary case stemming from the incident.

Elkins, 44, did not return phone calls seeking comment from the Tribune, and no one answered this week at his North Side condominium.

In an interview at their lawyer’s Loop office last week, the two beating victims said they are struggling to recover from the attack and have been left shaken and angry that a police sergeant may have been responsible.

“I was just sick to my stomach for days,” said Sherwood, 53, sitting in a wheelchair with his leg propped up in a thick cast. “… It’s our city. We pay taxes so the police can be there to protect us. That part of it is very, very upsetting.”

‘An absolute rage’
The night of the attack started like a typical Saturday for Sherwood and Stacha.

The couple, who have been together for 14 years, had friends over to their Edgewater condo for drinks and food, then took an Uber to the popular night scene of Andersonville a couple of miles away. After hitting one bar, they crossed the street to @mosphere, a dance club they said was not their usual haunt.

Because of the pending lawsuit, the couple’s lawyer did not want them to talk in detail about the altercation inside the club that precipitated the attack. The suit alleges that Elkins’ group attacked Sherwood. A friend of Elkins who was arrested that night told a detective in a recorded interview that it was Sherwood and his friends who were the aggressors, saying someone in their group called him a “short s—” and pushed his husband hard enough to knock him down.

Sherwood, a customer service manager for a suburban food company, said their group decided to leave the club because the friends were uncomfortable with the situation. He said no one had kicked them out.

“We were on our way out, minding our own business and ready to go on with our night,” said Sherwood, adding that he was the first one out of the door.

Sherwood said a “bald guy” who had been inside the bar — whom he now alleges in his suit is Elkins — came out in “an absolute rage,” breaking through the bouncer trying to contain the crowd at the door. Sherwood said he suddenly found himself under assault. Within seconds, he said, he felt his leg snap and he crumpled to the sidewalk as blows continued to rain down on his head.

“I went instinctively into the fetal position, and they kept kicking and punching my head,” Sherwood said. “Then they seemed to concentrate on Tom after that. The whole thing happened in about 30 seconds.”

Chicago police Sgt. Eric Elkins, who has been on paid desk duty for two years pending another disciplinary case, is accused of beating two men outside a dance club in September 2018. (LinkedIn)
Stacha, 44, who had followed his partner out the door, said the beating was over before he could even think about defending himself.

“There were just punches and kicks coming from everywhere,” said Stacha, a safety director for an airplane cleaning company.

With Sherwood and Stacha lying on the pavement, the attackers fled on foot. An ambulance was called. Police body camera footage taken by officers arriving at the scene — which was turned over to the victims’ attorney by the city as part of the lawsuit and reviewed by the Tribune — showed Stacha holding a towel to his face, his head swollen and bleeding. Behind him, Sherwood was shouting in pain. He had propped his foot up on a curb to keep it stationary.

Witnesses at the scene told police that the offenders had fled in two different directions. Based on the descriptions, police quickly found two of Elkins’ friends walking down Balmoral Avenue a few blocks away. The other two were not found.

Video of the arrest, which also was turned over as part of the lawsuit and viewed by the Tribune at Cavanagh’s office, showed the two men being handcuffed and placed in a squad car. On the ride back to the scene of the attack, one of them cried and denied involvement, while the other hissed at him, “Just stop talking!”

When the officers brought the two back to the scene, they were identified by both a bar employee and Stacha as having been among the attackers, according to police reports and what can be seen on the body cameras. But when they were interviewed at the police station several hours later, both men denied taking part in the beating, telling a detective that Elkins was responsible — and that he was an off-duty officer.

“If there was a fight, I’m sure it was the other bald man in a black shirt who is a Chicago police sergeant,” said one of the men, later referring to Elkins by name, according to a video recording of the interview reviewed by the Tribune. They also named Elkins’ boyfriend and identified him as a police officer in Oak Park.

Police held the men for nearly two days before releasing them without charges “pending further investigation,” the arrest reports show.

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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