College Swimmer On School Trip Claims Police Pointed Gun At Head After He Took Selfie

by : Lucy Connolly on : 16 Feb 2020 15:28
college student held up at gunpoint by police 1ACLU Illinois

A black college student returning from a swimming tournament with his teammates alleges he was held up at gunpoint by several police officers after taking a selfie in front of a road sign.

Jaylan Butler, 20, a sophomore swimmer at Eastern Illinois University, was walking back towards the vehicle he was travelling in when the officers handcuffed him, pointed a gun at his head and threatened to ‘blow [his] f*cking head off’, according to a lawsuit filed by the student.


The 20-year-old filed the lawsuit last month in the US District Court for the Central District of Illinois for unlawful search and seizure, false arrest and excessive force.

jaylan butler had gun pointed at his headACLU Illinois

Jaylan claims to have been travelling on a bus with his team and coaches approximately one year ago when it pulled over shortly after 8pm near a rest stop in East Moline, Illinois, so the students could stretch their legs.

He got off the bus, took a selfie and was heading back towards the vehicle when several law enforcement vehicles pulled up. Officers then exited with their guns drawn, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois – which is representing Jaylan in his lawsuit – said in a press release.


According to the lawsuit, the police officers shouted at Jaylan to put his hands up and get down, which he did without resisting. They then allegedly forced the student to the ground, with one putting his knee on the student’s back and another pressing on his neck.

It was at this point one of the officers bent down to his level, put a gun to his forehead and said: ‘If you keep moving, I’m going to blow your f*cking head off,’ the lawsuit alleges.

jaylan butler gun pointed to head selfieACLU Illinois

The lawsuit names officers from three departments: Ethan Bush of the Hampton Police Department, Travis Staes of the East Moline Police Department, and Deputy Jack Asquini and Deputy Pena of the Rock Island County Sheriff’s Office. Two unnamed officers referred to as John Doe 1 and John Doe 2 are also listed as defendants.


Since the ordeal, Jaylan says he no longer feels safe when he sees a police officer and instead feels ‘scared and anxious’. The student now sees a therapist to address his trauma and depression.

He explained:

I was scared and depressed. I remember sitting in class the next day, looking at the bruises on my wrists and replaying the events of that night.

My dad taught me at a young age what to do when you are stopped by police officers – stop instantly, put your hands up, drop anything you are holding, and drop to your knees. I hoped I would never have to use this advice in my life, but all that changed in seconds.

jaylan butler gun pointed to headEastern Illinois University Athletics

Even when the officers realised Jaylan was not the man they were looking for – as they were actually searching for a wanted suspect – they allegedly refused to let him go and put him in the back of a police car, still handcuffed, the suit says.

After several more minutes, the officers released him, but only after forcing Jaylan to provide photo identification. According to the lawsuit, the student was never told why he was detained and arrested.

Following the lawsuit, the Rock Island Sheriff’s Department said in a press release that its deputies arrived at the scene after Jaylan had already been detained, and had only a ‘brief interaction’ with him before continuing their manhunt.


A statement by The East Moline police chief, Jeff Ramsey, claims the officer in question ‘handled the encounter properly, lawfully, and in accordance with the policies and procedures’ of the department, adding: ‘I am confident that the allegations against Officer Staes are without merit.’

The case is pending in the US District Court for the Central District of Illinois.

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Lucy Connolly

A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).

Topics: News, America, Crime, Police, Racism, Sport, Swimming


ACLU Illinois and 3 others
  1. ACLU Illinois


  2. ACLU Illinois


  3. Rock Island County Sheriff's Office/Facebook


  4. City of East Moline Police Department/Facebook