A veteran Chicago police officer sought retribution on a patient at a South Side hospital a short time after he was surprised and punched in the face by the man, Cook County prosecutors alleged Tuesday.
A surveillance camera at Jackson Park Hospital captured the burly officer attacking the patient, who by then had his hands cuffed behind his back after his assault on the officer, according to prosecutors.
Officer Clauzell Gause — 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds, according to his arrest report — shoved the patient and then struck him several times, the charges alleged.
The patient had been involuntarily admitted to the hospital to undergo a mental health evaluation.
Gause, 40, surrendered Tuesday at the Leighton Criminal Court Building to face a charge of official misconduct. If convicted, he faces anywhere from probation to up to five years in prison.
The Cook County state’s attorney’s office balked at releasing the video after a judge in bond court ruled he didn’t need to view the footage in setting bond for the officer.
But pressed by a Tribune reporter, the Independent Police Review Authority, which investigates allegations of misconduct by Chicago police, made the video public later Tuesday.
In court, prosecutors said the undisclosed patient was having his blood pressure taken when he stood up and suddenly punched Gause in the face. A witness — believed to be Gause’s partner — subdued and handcuffed the patient.
The video shows that the assault lasted just seconds. The officer, wearing his uniform and bulletproof vest, shoves the handcuffed patient into a wall. The man appears to bounce off the wall before turning to face the officer. The officer then hits him with a sweeping right hand, knocking him onto his right side on a bed. The officer then leans over the man and takes two more swipes at him with his left hand.
Prosecutors said Gause held the patient down on the bed when he struck him the last two times.
Photographs and medical records documented that the man suffered swelling and lacerations to his forehead, prosecutors said.
The video shows that a second uniformed officer witnessed the attack, but no additional charges are expected, said Sally Daly, a spokeswoman for State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.
The charge against Gause comes nearly two years after the June 2014 incident in spite of the video evidence. Daly said investigators for IPRA had trouble finding the alleged victim, now 24.
The felony charge comes amid a changed landscape for the Police Department and the state’s attorney’s office since the court-ordered release last November of the disturbing video of black teenager Laquan McDonald’s fatal shooting by a white Chicago police officer. Weeks of protest resulted, the Justice Department launched an exhaustive investigation of the Police Department, Alvarez suffered a stinging re-election defeat in large part over her handling of the McDonald case and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, under intense criticism for months, announced a proposal last week to abolish the city’s beleaguered Independent Police Review Authority.
One element missing in the charge against Gause was a racial one. Both the officer and the man he hit are black, according to court records.
Anthony Guglielmi, chief spokesman for the Police Department, said Gause was relieved of his police powers and placed on paid desk duty in the same month as the incident. It was unclear if more serious disciplinary action will be taken against him because of the felony charge.
“The Chicago Police Department has zero tolerance for misconduct or any activity which undermines the integrity of our officers and our efforts to rebuild public trust,” Guglielmi said in a statement.
Gause, 40, wearing jeans and a gray fleece, stood with his hands behind his back during his appearance Tuesday in Central Bond Court. When Judge Adam Bourgeois Jr. ordered him released on his own recognizance, Gause turned to look back at two female relatives in the courtroom gallery. Both women later declined to talk to a reporter.
At the hearing, Assistant State’s Attorney Theresa Smith said twice that she intended to play a video clip of the alleged attack, but the judge brushed her off, saying it wasn’t necessary because he could rely on her recitation of the evidence. Bourgeois pointed out that he was only setting bond, not trying the case.
“You and I and those like us who chose a life of public service, we’re held to a higher standard,” the judge said in ordering the officer released. “That’s the long and short of it. Whatever happened, happened. … You have to face the consequences.”
“I don’t think locking you up is going to serve any purpose. … I don’t think you are a danger to anybody,” Bourgeois said.
Gause’s attorney, William Fahy, told the judge the officer had worked most of his nearly 12-year career in the Calumet District on the city’s South Side and had no disciplinary record.
Gause has “served the Police Department honorably,” Fahy said.
According to the city records, Gause amassed at least 11 complaints from November 2006 to June 2014, including one related to the Jackson Park incident. City records obtained by the Tribune show that three days after the incident a complaint was filed against the officer with IPRA.
Court records also show that Gause was one of 11 Chicago police officers named in a federal excessive-force lawsuit stemming from the December 2013 arrest of a man outside a White Castle restaurant at 103rd Street and Michigan Avenue.
Jerome James alleged in his lawsuit that two of the officers were in the restaurant’s drive-thru when they were flagged down by a security officer who had seen James throwing a bottle of beer in the trash. James was arrested and taken to the Calumet District lockup, where he “exchanged words” with one of the officers, prompting a vicious assault, according to the suit.
The suit alleged James was held down by one officer while others beat him with brass knuckles and hurled racial epithets at him. He was stripped naked and left in the cell for hours with a bloodied face and broken tooth. It wasn’t until a detainee from another cell complained that a supervising sergeant had James transported to Roseland Community Hospital, according to the suit.
At Roseland, the officers claimed James was a “violent mental” and he was sedated against his will, his lawyer, Julie Herrera, told the Tribune on Tuesday. James was later taken to Jackson Park Hospital, where it was determined he had no mental issues, Herrera said. James was released without charges that day.
Records show the city settled the lawsuit for $60,000 last December.
While the lawsuit did not specify which officers took part in the alleged beating, Herrera said James identified Gause as one of the officers who had struck him in the face. Video from the police station captured Gause shortly after the beating walking through the booking area with “something metal in his hand,” Herrera said. But the city’s Law Department insisted no video from inside the cell showed the alleged beating, she said.
The alleged victim of the 2014 beating has a lengthy criminal record and is serving a two-year sentence in state prison for aggravated battery, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections. He was arrested last July for punching his girlfriend, causing severe swelling, bruising and a cut, according to a police report. While he was undergoing treatment at Jackson Park Hospital, he grabbed a nurse’s left breast, police said.