A Chicago woman busted on suspicion of driving under the influence in LaSalle County, Ill., is suing the sheriff’s office for an incident recorded by a surveillance camera: Four cops (three men and one woman) forcibly stripped her naked, threw her to the ground and then tossed her into a padded cell, where they left her without clothing — not even underwear.
The victim, 33-year-old Dana Holmes, shows no sign of resisting police at any time during the video, although the police indicated in the incident report that she had attempted to kick them.
While being held against the wall, the still-clothed Holmes underwent a pat-down search with her arms and legs spread. The melee began (around 4:10 in the video) as the female deputy conducting the search inspected Holmes’ feet. Holmes moved her leg ever so slightly as the officer search her lower body, and that motion apparently set off the four deputies.
“I did not kick,” Holmes told the Chicago Tribune. “I don’t know if I lost my balance or what happened, but I wasn’t being combative at all.”
Holmes, whose blood alcohol level was reportedly far above the legal limit when she was arrested by a municipal police patrol, said her infraction doesn’t justify the actions of the county deputies who booked her into the jail, and that the way the cops had treated her made her fear they would return to the cell where she was being held and sexually abuse her.
“I was actually afraid they might come in and try to rape me. I wasn’t sure. I just had all kinds of things going on in my head,” she said. “…There’s a lot of people that get DUIs, a lot of people that just make mistakes in life. That still doesn’t give them a reason to do what they did. My dignity is worth more than that, and other people’s too.”
The incident happened in May, but the release of the video has brought national attention to the case. Holmes has never contested the DUI charge; she pleaded guilty in July and has no prior criminal record in her home county. She is suing the sheriff’s office for violating her civil rights and causing emotional distress. Her attorney, Terry Ekl, is also hoping the deputies involved will be charged with official misconduct. “It’s not only a violation of her civil rights. It’s also a crime,” he told the Tribune.
The municipal police who arrested Holmes had already searched her once. When they handed her over to the county, the deputies threatened to remove her belly button ring with pliers, according to Ekl.
Illinois law permits a strip search only if police have a “reasonable belief” that a suspect is concealing a weapon or contraband on their person, and the law doesn’t allow anyone who isn’t conducting the search to watch. An officer of the opposite sex cannot participate in a strip search.