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Thursday, March 11, 2010 04:11 pm

Redpath caught red-handed

Springfield police officer gets 15-day suspension for “use of force”

Darius Billops has spent his fair share of time behind bars. The 29-year-old from Springfield has collected a laundry list of indiscretions, starting in 1998 with traffic violations like driving without a license and insurance and moving up over the years to drug possession, theft and domestic battery.

No one was more surprised than he was to be released from the Sangamon County Jail last November after investigators from the Springfield Police Department’s internal affairs division arrived to question him about his treatment at the hands of SPD Officer Chuck Redpath, Jr. Neither Billops nor anyone in his family had filed a complaint against Redpath, who arrested Billops on Nov. 25, 2009, for his involvement in an earlier car accident that sent the rookie cop to the hospital, suggesting that the complaint was filed by a fellow officer.

Redpath is the 26-year-old son of former Ward 4 Ald. Chuck Redpath, who sat on the Springfield City Council for 20 years until term limits forced him to retire.

According to police reports obtained by Illinois Times, Billops and 21-year-old Laporcha Hayes were riding in a maroon Lincoln Navigator on Nov. 21, when it collided with Redpath’s squad car at the intersection of 19th and South Grand Avenue. Redpath was treated at St. John’s Hospital for pain in his left leg, left arm and head.

The pair, along with an unidentified black male, fled the scene of the accident. A fourth passenger, identified as 28-year-old Trent Moore, was found in the Navigator, along with a leafy substance that later tested positive for cannabis.

Redpath, along with Springfield Police Officer Jennifer Howard and United States Marshals Officer Mike Brown, picked up Billops and Hayes on Nov. 25 at Hayes’ home on Sixth Street. They were transported to the SPD and placed in separate rooms in the Investigations Section, according to a report submitted by SPD Detective Joshua Stuenkel.

Stuenkel was one of two detectives who were called to the department to interview Billops and Hayes. In his report, he notes:

“Officer Redpath reported that D. Billops had become combative while he and Officer Brown were exchanging handcuffs so that Officer Brown could be relieved. Officer Redpath reported that D. Billops was secure in the interview room.”

The detectives initially received conflicting stories from Billops and Hayes about the Nov. 21 car accident, the report states, but Hayes then admitted to driving the Navigator and fleeing from the scene on foot. She was arrested for obstructing justice, leaving the scene of an injury accident, driving with a suspended license and possession of cannabis, and was transported to the Sangamon County Jail.

Billops was arrested for obstructing justice, possession of cannabis and resisting a police officer, but according to Stuenkel’s report, he then asked to go to the hospital.

“He stated that he read the poster on the wall that said if he wanted to go to the hospital we had to take him,” the report states. “D. Billops did not complain of any pain or injury during the interview.”

Billops told Illinois Times that he did ask to go to the hospital after reading the rules on the interview room wall, but says that’s where his story begins to differ from the one told by SPD officers.

Redpath started harassing him as soon as they left Hayes’ home, Billops says.

“He was telling me from the time he picked me up that the other officers said it was okay for him to kick my ass,” he says.

Billops says that he was brought to the interview room, where the two officers who transported him then switched his handcuffs. But once the marshal left, he says, Redpath attacked him.

“He beat me up, the officer that hit us,” Billops says. “He left the handcuffs on me…he punched, elbowed me, pushed my head into the wall. Then he left, and I didn’t see him again.”

Billops told the two detectives about what happened, he says, but didn’t receive medical attention until he arrived at St. John’s Hospital, where he was examined for bruising on his knee and leg. He was taken to the Sangamon County Jail, he says, and was later paid a surprise visit by SPD’s Internal Affairs.

“I was in jail for five days, but then they let me out of jail and dropped the charges,” Billops says.

Gray Noll, an assistant state’s attorney in Sangamon County, confirms that Billops was not charged for any crime related to the Nov. 21 car accident or to his Nov. 25 arrest.

“From looking at our files in the computer,” Noll says, “I don’t think he was ever charged with anything.”

Noll adds that he dismissed the charges against Hayes, due to “insufficient evidence.”

According to an Internal Affairs summary report obtained by Illinois Times, Redpath was placed on a 15-day suspension for Nov. 25 charges relating to “use of force, unbecoming conduct and courtesy & image.”

The officer had previously been exonerated for “use of force” charges dating back to March 1 and March 10 in 2009.

Ernie Slottag, city communications director, refused to comment.

“We don’t talk about personnel matters,” he says, “and that’s a personnel matter.”

Contact Amanda Robert at arobert@illinoistimes.com.
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