Police union ousts whistleblower cop who leaked death in custody video

An Illinois police union on Wednesday ousted from its membership an officer facing criminal charges for exposing a squad car video that showed his fellow officers slapping and cursing a man dying of a drug overdose.

The case of Sgt. Javier Esqueda, a 27-year veteran of the Joliet Police Department, was featured in September as the first installment of the USA TODAY series “Behind the Blue Wall,” an investigation involving more than 300 cases of police officers over the past decade who have spoken out against alleged misconduct in their departments.

A subsequent story published this week outlined patterns of retaliation against such officers in departments large and small across the country, highlighting how some within law enforcement use internal affairs investigations and other forms of retaliation and intimidation to punish those who break the code of silence.

Esqueda told USA TODAY that he’s become a pariah among his coworkers since July 2020, when he shared with a television reporter footage from January of that year showing how officers treated a handcuffed Black man in medical distress. Officers slapped Eric Lurry, restricted his airway and shoved a baton in his mouth hours before his death. Esqueda faces up to 20 years in prison after department officials opened a criminal investigation into his actions and prosecutors charged him with four counts of official misconduct.

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