Two federal lawsuits each seek more than $10 million on behalf of two 12-year-old boys who allege a Kankakee police officer shocked them with a stun gun during an in-school demonstration.
The lawsuits were filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Urbana. Police officials in Kankakee placed the officer on administrative leave after he allegedly used a stun gun on students Tuesday as part of an unauthorized demonstration of the device at Kankakee Junior High School.
The lawsuits name the police officer, the city of Kankakee, Kankakee School District 111 and two teachers.
The boys’ attorney, James Rowe, says they also want the officer — identified in the suit as Lonnie Netzel — fired and criminal charges filed in the case. Teachers Teresa LaReau and Jessica Labon are also named.
Rowe alleges that the shockings were racially motivated.
“Shocking two 12-year-olds with a taser gun for no reason is reprehensible and criminal,” said James Rowe, the lawyer representing Alta Young and Stella Bender, the boys’ mothers, in a statement. “This was abuse, and it was perpetrated upon students of color and only students of color.”
Another mother, who asked to remain anonymous because she didn’t want her son to suffer a backlash from the school district, said her 12-year-old son witnessed the incident and that it occured in a special needs classroom for learning and behaviorally challenged children.
“All the children in the class have some sort of learning or behavior disorder,” the concerned parent said. “My son has Tramatic Brain Injury, if that gives you an example of what the makeup of the kids are in that class.”
The Kankakee school district has not confirmed this information.
She said her son told her that the first boy screamed and said, “why did you do that?”
The officer responded: “You volunteered.”
The second boy fell down over a chair and the third boy laughed.
“Now my son is scared of police officers.”
The Netzel allegedly Tased a few students in the finger a week earlier, and allegedly has a history of intimidation. He is a 19-year-veteran of the Kankaee police force who has worked as a school -resources officer for years.
In one of the more gruesome incidents detailed in the lawsuit, Netzel allegedly laid out sheets of newspaper and asked a boy to sit on it before being Tased, in case he defecated or urinated.
Kankakee School District 11 Superintendent Colleen Lange said in a statement that the school board is conducting a full investigation into the alleged incident.