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Video released of incident where officer was arrested for throwing student to the ground in Illinois

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William Lee

Chicago Tribune

A Cook County judge on Sunday released a fledgling suburban police officer on bail after prosecutors said he barged into a Proviso West High School honors classroom and tossed a student around after he ordered the teen not to draw on a whiteboard.

But the unidentified 17-year-old had the permission of his honors civics class teacher to draw on the whiteboard when security guard Eligah Skinner entered the class unprompted and told him to stop and to go back to his desk, prosecutors told a judge during a bail hearing broadcast on YouTube.

The student refused, telling Skinner that it was OK for him to be drawing on the board, according to authorities.

Skinner, 25, of Bellwood, who faces aggravated battery and official misconduct charges for the Friday incident at the Hillside high school, then allegedly threw a deflated dodgeball at the student, as well as a bottle of lotion and a water bottle, Assistant State’s Attorney Krista Peterson told the court.

All three items hit the student, but he didn’t react, Peterson said. Skinner then flicked a marker out of the student’s hand and attempted to grab another when the teenager picked up a second one.

Skinner, a suburban Phoenix police officer “in training” who is listed on court documents as being 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, then allegedly grabbed the student by his shoulder and chest, lifting him up from a chair, and moments later struck him in the chest with both hands and grabbed his sweater, Peterson said.

The student attempted to throw a punch, but it didn’t connect, she added.

“The defendant then threw the victim onto a table, then onto desks and finally onto the ground,” Peterson said. Skinner then is accused of holding the teen down, putting his knee on the boy’s chest and his hands around his upper torso and neck, as shocked students watched and recorded the incident on their phones, according to authorities. The teen had shortness of breath, Peterson said.

After releasing the student, Skinner was later arrested by Hillside police. In custody, he admitted throwing the items at the student, but claimed the teenager “rushed him,” Peterson said. In police interviews, the teen’s teacher and classmates all said Skinner was the main aggressor, authorities said.

Skinner’s attorney, Richard Blass, said his client was an active Phoenix police officer who had been stripped of his police powers and weapons. In asking for a personal recognizance bond, Blass said Skinner, who graduated from Proviso West in 2015, had no prior criminal record and had been a part-time officer in Franklin Park.

Judge Kelly Marie McCarthy instead released Skinner on $500 bail, and ordered him not to have contact with the student or school grounds during the case. Officials at Phoenix police couldn’t be reached for comment Sunday.

Proviso Township High School District 209 released a brief statement on its website, showing support for the student. “This assault was unprovoked. We will not tolerate anyone treating our scholars in this manner,” the statement read. “We had the (school resource officer) arrested immediately.”

Skinner is scheduled to return to court next week.

©2021 Chicago Tribune. Visit chicagotribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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