URBANA — An off-duty University of Illinois police officer who allegedly displayed his badge and gun to a group of people in Campustown while drunk early Sunday has been charged with official misconduct.
Kiel Cotter, 28, of St. Joseph, was arrested by Champaign police Sunday afternoon and booked into the county jail about 3:30 p.m. after admitting he was so drunk, he had trouble remembering some of what had happened hours earlier.
UI police spokesman Pat Wade said Cotter was fired Monday, having been placed on administrative leave Sunday afternoon as soon as the department learned of the allegations.
He was arraigned Monday afternoon on the single felony count.
According to a Champaign police report, a woman told police that about 2:45 a.m. Sunday, she was with a group of people in a parking lot in the 0-100 block of East Green Street when Cotter approached the group, identified himself as a UI police officer and displayed his badge and weapon.
At least one person told police that Cotter drew, then reholstered, his gun.
The witnesses were worried that they might be in trouble for public intoxication or for trying to get too many people into one car. Witnesses said it appeared that Cotter directed some of the group away while others left in a car.
One woman reported that Cotter allegedly told them to do what he ordered or they could be shot or arrested. She reported that Cotter was physically pushing some of the people in the group.
When the group dispersed, one woman remained behind with Cotter, telling police she stayed to talk with him because she was afraid her friends might get in trouble for being intoxicated.
The woman and Cotter then went to a nearby restaurant and bought food, and some of the woman’s friends rejoined them. The group then went to a second Campustown restaurant.
One of the group members said the woman had asked Cotter to carry her wallet for her. The woman who had asked him to hold her wallet said she declined Cotter’s invitation to return to his home with him, and he left.
Hours later Sunday, she realized that he still had her wallet, so she called the police.
Champaign police located Cotter and recovered the woman’s wallet.
He admitted that he had consumed between six and eight drinks at a campus bar prior to the incident and could not clearly recall what had happened.
He was unable to say why he approached the group to begin with but agreed he might have displayed his weapon and badge as a way of “trying to show a little power there, a little power trip” and that it might have been part of a pickup attempt.
Wade said Cotter had been hired as a patrol officer in January and graduated from the Police Training Institute in April. He was on probation and still in field training.
“The University of Illinois Police Department does not tolerate behavior inconsistent with its core values of justice, respect, integrity, trust and inclusion. Employees who betray the public trust and violate our code of conduct will be held accountable,” Wade said Monday.
Official misconduct alleges that Cotter used his position of authority to gain an advantage but that he exceeded his authority. It is a Class 3 felony with penalties ranging from probation to two to five years in prison.
Judge Brett Olmstead allowed Cotter to be released on his own recognizance. He wanted time to hire his own attorney and was told to be back in court July 13.
The judge also ordered him to turn in any guns he has to the sheriff within the next two days and not to be present on the property of the UI.