EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – A sheriff's deputy zapped three children with a stun gun at an Illinois emergency youth shelter, threatening to sodomize one of them before choking a fourth child and throwing her in a closet, according to a federal civil-rights lawsuit.
The suit against Jefferson County sheriff's deputy David Bowers and another deputy claims they were unprovoked in the incident at the adolescent center in southern Illinois that houses youths ages 11 to 18, often with behavioral issues.
No charges have been filed in the case. Sheriff Roger Mulch, who also is named in the lawsuit, said Monday the deputies followed protocol and did "nothing out of the ordinary."
The suit, filed July 1, called the deputies' actions "extreme, outrageous and unjustified," and it does not release the names or ages of the three boys shot with the stun gun. The fourth kid was a foster child who did not live at the center, according to the lawsuit.
The suit claims that Bowers and sheriff's deputy Lonnie Lawler went to the center near Marion on July 4, 2008 in response to a report that three teenagers were acting unruly. But the young people suing the deputies were not those disruptive children, the lawsuit said.
Bowers allegedly pushed one boy toward his bed, and repeatedly shocked him with a stun gun. Bowers then held down a second boy, stunned him several times and threatened to sodomize him, ultimately causing the child to soil himself, the lawsuit claimed.
A third child complied with the deputies' demands that he sit on a couch, but Lawler handcuffed him before Bowers zapped him repeatedly, the lawsuit said.
The fourth child, a girl, pleaded with the deputies to stop but Lawler handcuffed her. Bowers lifted her off the ground, pressed her against a wall and choked her, the lawsuit alleges.
"Do you want to live or die (expletive)?" the lawsuit, filed July 1, claims Bowers asked the girl before she was thrown into a closet, vomiting.
Bowers did not immediately return messages left at his home, and Lawler does not have a listed home telephone number. It was not known whether either had an attorney.
Gene Svebakken, president and chief executive of Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois, which runs the center, said Monday after reviewing the lawsuit that he was "really alarmed and distressed by the allegations."
"These are young people often traumatized in their circumstances, and that they, like all children, needed to be treated with dignity and respect," he said, noting that the shelter serves a myriad of children, ranging from runaways from placement elsewhere to youths between foster homes.
Mulch portrayed the center as a chronic hassle, this year accounting for more than 100 requests for his department's help.
He defended his deputies, saying separate investigations by his department and Illinois State Police determined Bowers and Lawler did nothing wrong.