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A man who was playing music loud enough to disturb other patrons at the Main Library was stuned by a Taser used by Evanston Police officers after he refused to leave the premises. The incident occurred on the third floor of the Main Library, 1703 Orrington Ave., at about 8 p.m. on June 23.
The man, a 41-year-old resident of Rogers Park, “was listening to music at an Internet station [on the Library’s third floor] with a set of earphones. The music was too loud and staff asked him to turn it down,” said Library administrator Paul Gottschalk.
The level of the music was disturbing other patrons, said Lesley Williams, head of adult services for the Library, and at two separate times staff members asked the man to “moderate his behavior.” He refused each time and was then asked by another staff member to leave,” she said. When he did not, said Ms. Williams, “as is policy, we called the police.”
When the police responded, Mr. Gottschalk said, “It escalated from there. The police asked him to leave and he became belligerent and aggressive.”
Ross Huston, a Library patron who witnessed the incident, told the RoundTable he felt the Library staff “handled it properly.” He said he could hear the music the man was playing and he heard the man arguing with the Library’s security guard, accusing the guard of “singling [him] out.”
When the police came, Mr. Huston said, they asked the man to calm down and told him if he did not follow orders they would use a Taser on him. “The officer said, ‘You don’t want to get Tasered and we don’t want to Taser you,’” said Mr. Huston. The man asked the police officers “why this was happening,” Mr. Huston said.
Commander Jay Parrott of the Evanston Police Department told the RoundTable that the police responded to a call from the Library about a patron who was asked to leave but had refused to do so. Cmdr. Parrott said the officers asked the man to leave but he refused. When the officers went to put handcuffs on the man, he “began to resist physically,” Cmdr. Parrott said.
“At one point he could have left without being arrested. … We do try to give someone the benefit of the doubt,” said Cmdr. Parrott. Once there is physical contact, however, the situation is changed. When a suspect has been “told do something, it’s not a back-and-forth negotiation,” he said.
The man has been charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct, aggravated assault and resisting a peace officer, said Cmdr. Parrott. Reportedly, the man had previously been banned from the Library, and June 23 was his first day back.
Ms. Williams, Mr. Gottschalk and Library Director Karen Danczak Lyons all said the Library staff followed Library policy.
“It’s a fundamental rule. You can’t interfere with another patron’s use of the Library,” said Mr. Gottschalk. He added, “It was unfortunate that he was not responsive to several Library staff requests and not responsive to the police requests.”
“Patrons come here to be undisturbed in their studies and reading,” said Ms. Lyons. “We try to give more than one warning, but with the third warning [we call the police] … We do want to have a safe and quiet Library.”
Police Chief Richard Eddington said police officers will use force if “we’ve decided that [the suspect] is a danger to us or others and has to be subdued or arrested.” He said “active resistance” or “a threat to an officer” can trigger the decision to use force.
The officer must then “decide what’s appropriate,” said Chief Eddington. A Taser is an electro shock weapon that “forces increasingly frequent muscle contractions … so that you’re unable to stand up. The point is to subdue the suspect,” he said, adding however, that the use of force is “predicated upon the action of the offender.”
The use of a Taser “allows the officer to stay at a safe distance and is less dangerous to the suspect and the police officer,” Chief Eddington said. “It is one of the more humane ways we have of getting compliance” and is “very appealing to police administrators.”
A Taser, said Chief Eddington, is “a force from which a person can immediately recover.” Although there have been serious injuries and even deaths from Tasers, he said, some of those incidents were complicated by drugs or other non-related problems.
“If you look at national statistics, you will see that injuries to officers and suspects have decreased significantly with the use of Tasers,” he said.
Some, but not all, Evanston police officers carry a Taser, said Chief Eddington, but each officer is required to carry, in addition to a firearm, one non-lethal weapon in which he or she has been trained.
“In the hundreds of thousands of interactions between police officers and the community, the number of incidents in which we use force is infinitesimally small,” the Chief said.