Fourth lawsuit filed against Champaign police officer

Fourth lawsuit filed against Champaign police officer

CHAMPAIGN — A federal excessive force lawsuit filed Friday alleges that the actions of Champaign police officer Matt Rush caused a woman with a history of mental health issues to lose her unborn child.

The lawsuit, the fourth of its kind against Rush, was filed by Precious Jackson of Champaign. In the past few months, Champaign has settled three other lawsuits filed against Rush for a total of $320,000.

The suit also alleges that Rush and other officers denied Jackson medical care and falsely arrested her to cover up Rush's actions. The suit alleges that the city was responsible for the incident because it failed to properly train the officers and knew Rush "had a tendency to punch people."

Rush, who was on unpaid leave as of Feb. 2, was fired by Chief Anthony Cobb in August 2014 for lying on police reports and misconduct that led to three separate internal investigations, including one in the Jackson incident that said Rush used excessive force and omitted that he punched Jackson when he was writing his report. The firing was overturned by an independent arbitrator who reduced termination to three separate suspensions of 1, 3 and 30 days.

The most severe punishment was for the incident involving Jackson, which ultimately led to Cobb's decision. The News-Gazette obtained video of the incident through the Freedom of Information act.

How the incident played out, according to the lawsuit:

On May 26, 2014, Rush and police Sgt. Matt Crane responded to a kitchen fire at Jackson's residence at 610 Goldenview in Champaign. Jackson wasn't home, but the officers were able to put out the fire. The officers were familiar with the house and knew Jackson had a history of mental health problems, so they went out to look for her.

Around 7:22 a.m., Rush saw Jackson in the 1600 block of University Avenue. He pulled his car next to Jackson and yelled "come here." Jackson didn't comply and continued walking down the sidewalk. Rush ran out of his car and chased Jackson.

Jackson turned around to face Rush, and he tackled her and slammed her to the ground. He straddled her and put his full body weight on Jackson's stomach and torso. Jackson was only wearing a nightgown, which came up and exposed her breasts and vagina. While on top of Jackson, Rush punched her, sprayed her in the eyes with OC spray, kneed her in the thigh and groin.

"All of the force described above was unnecessary and unreasonable under the circumstances," the lawsuit reads.

The suit later adds: "The foregoing actions of Officer Rush put (Jackson) in tremendous pain, caused eye burning, blurred vision, bruising, and further caused (her) to bleed from her vagina. Upon information and belief, the actions of Officer Rush also caused (Jackson) to lose her unborn child."

The suit also names the city of Champaign, Crane and Officer Ashley Petkunas as defendants.

The suit alleges that Jackson begged Crane and Petkunas to be taken to the hospital for medical treatment and to clean her eyes from OC spray, but was instead put into Petkunas' car, while the officers had a meeting.

During a six-minute meeting, the officers agreed to arrest Jackson on charges of aggravated battery to a police officer, resisting arrest and criminal damage to property. The criminal damage to property charge was for an earlier incident at Thornton's, where an unknown person smashed a bottle of alcohol, according to the suit.

The suit says that Rush said he knew Jackson was not involved in the Thornton's incident because of the timing of the fire and the distance to Thornton's.

The suit alleges that Petkunas took Jackson to the Champaign County Jail instead of the hospital despite Jackson's "serious and obvious medical need" and repeated cries to do so, and that the officers never cleaned out Jackson's eyes.

Jackson's attorney, Shneur Nathan, was also the attorney for Benjmain Mann and Kisica Seets, who settled excessive force lawsuits against Rush for $225,000 and $30,000, respectively.

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Chambanacitizen wrote on February 19, 2016 at 6:02 pm

Gotta love unions!  How else could we overpay people to do jobs they shouldn't be doing?  And even pay them for not working after they retire! (White people say it's "owed" to them as pension, but any other race it's called "welfare"). And people wonder why we are in financial trouble.

Areyoukidingme wrote on February 19, 2016 at 8:02 pm

Welfare, pensions???? What are you talking about? The two are not even close to being the same thing. People get a pension after working and contributing to some fund or IRA. People get welfare without any contribution. The only contribution to welfare is the people who are working and paying taxes that add additional funding to state government to fund welfare.  As far as your union feeling or whatever it is you have. Everyone has the ability to either hire on at job that has union benefits or those who are working that aren't Union have the ability to join unions with a vote of their fellow employees. 

787 wrote on February 20, 2016 at 7:02 am

It is starting to look like the City of Champaign needs to seriously revamp their hiring guidlines and practices for the Police Department.   Between this guy, who likes to beat up and abuse people while wearing a badge... and the former policeman (aka "Officer of the Year") who is awaiting trial for allegedly sexually abusing multiple girlfriends... there appear to be serious problems. 

Thanks again to the union "negotiatior" in Wisconsin who determined that this guy shouldn't be fired, and gave him his job back, with a few slaps on the wrist.   Just shows how union people will go as far as it takes, to do whatever they can, to protect other union people.

The police department needs to fire this guy (again), NOW.  Even at the risk of having another union "negotiator", who will do everything that he can to give him the job back, like always, becuase that's the union way.

And that's why people are getting sick and tired of the power that the unions hold, and that same power that the unions abuse every day.  The unions need to stop it, and clean it up,   And that will never happen, until the union members call for it. and that will never happen either.  So, it will be more of the same.

Thanks to the News-Gazette for publishing a picture of this guy, as much as possible.  Anyone who might have to interact with this guy, and doesn't want to be battered, needs to know what he looks like.

And by the way, where is our esteemed State's Attorney Julia Reitz on this?   Did she ever decide to do anything here... or not?   Could the News-Gazette please follow up with her office, yet again?

787 wrote on February 20, 2016 at 8:02 am

I forgot that the unions support democrats, so the democrats support the unions.   And Rietz is a democrat.

Too bad that poltiics has to be that way,  

And we'll see how long this lasts, as one cannot be critical of Rietz, even though she is an elected official.

However, I'd still like the N-G to follow up with her office next week.

Sunnylove wrote on February 21, 2016 at 12:02 am

What I want to know is how these guys passed their psych evaluations? The psych evals are the very last step in the hiring process and they've let pieces of crap through (such as Rush) and also failed genuinely good people. I hear the psychologist has been with CPD for years, and before that it was his father. Sounds a bit like nepotism.

Mef wrote on February 20, 2016 at 9:02 am

So perhaps I must be naive, but if you assault someone to the point that they miscarry a baby, isn't that manslaughter? I realize it's not premeditated, but you still used force above and beyond what your job called for, especially to an unarmed defensiveless person who you already maced. In so using that force, you killed a fetus. This guy should not just continue to be sued and eventually be allowed to "represent" our police force for future unwarranted acts to happen again. Ths man should be in jail for murder. Can we please stop talking about the unions and start calling for this man to be jailed? 

rsp wrote on February 20, 2016 at 1:02 pm

That would require the person to actually be pregnant and to actually miscarry a baby, wouldn't it? I have a feeling this case is going to get interesting.

pziggy wrote on February 20, 2016 at 8:02 pm


Substantial portion of claim rests on allegations not proven.

Jsmith68 wrote on February 20, 2016 at 2:02 pm

Just a note on the hiring..........Mr. Rush was hired by the infamous Finney/Murphy kingdom, not the current Chief.

billbtri5 wrote on February 21, 2016 at 7:02 am

I'm a ilittle fuzzy on why Jackson was apprehended in the first place...knocked her down to let her know her kitchen was on fire?...


And where is the CCSA in all this...who is looking out for the Rights and Liberties of the People in this County?...

rsp wrote on February 21, 2016 at 9:02 pm

There was a female who broke a bottle of alcohol at Thornton's and left on University Ave. The description was put out over the radio and Rush saw her and realised she matched it, including the clothing. That was why he stopped her.

Citizen1 wrote on February 21, 2016 at 8:02 am

Can't help but wonder if Champaign stopping rushing to pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars every time there was a claim, the claims would stop.


Investigate such claim and punish the wrong doers including those who make false claims.  Fire cops when necessary.  Pay no money.


bones1 wrote on February 21, 2016 at 2:02 pm

Citizen1 have you read any of the previous articles about this whole situation?  Might be prudent to do that before you comment.  The city tried to terminate Officer Rush but he was reinstated by an arbitrator.  The city also settles lawsuits (sometimes) to avoid lengthy trials that could end up costing much, much more in the long run.  You may not think this is all the way it should be, but that is the way the system works currently.  It is definitely a black eye for the city to have this whole thing continuously churning but they tried to end the employment of Ofc. Rush and they are making the judgement call to settle the suits with a payout.  If you think that is not the way they should be handling things then by all means contact the Mayor, the City Manager or your council member.  Or better yet, go to a council meeting to let the members know your feelings. Best to be informed before you go though so you can present a cogent argument.

rsp wrote on February 21, 2016 at 9:02 pm

There are links on this website to relevant documents about this case. It pays to be informed. Details matter. Facts matter. Read them very carefully. Someone is hoping people won't.

highspeed wrote on February 22, 2016 at 8:02 am

For all you experts in the field of pensions, why havent you stepped up with a recommendation to the state. How about you get active and help change the pension laws. For all you labor scholars, the process off arbitration is also law. Its beyond stupid to blame demcorats and unions when both democrat and republican politicians have put us in this pension mess.  

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 22, 2016 at 4:02 pm

Good comment, highspeed.

Chambanacitizen wrote on February 25, 2016 at 3:02 pm

8‰ from the state... And that comes from where? Not happy with what you are owed (the first 8)...but you are entitled the extra 8. That's welfare setup by people in government so they can call it pension. First mistake however was taking the east way out with a cushy government job. I say state workers are getting what they deserve. Just like all the people that flocked to the Dakotas for oil rig jobs. Hire kids with no degree at $70 grand a year. Now oil goes down, those people are out of work crying about being broke. Huh? Lol. Should have saved instead of assuming it will be given to you for life. Work hard for a fair wage and invest. I wonder if you look at the top 100 richest people in the US, how many were part of a union or hoped the government would give them money after they retire?