‘It’s the police being bullies’: Lawsuit filed over false arrest of Purple Heart recipient in Bellwood
BELLWOOD, Ill. — Gregory Middleton says it has been a traumatic time for him in recent weeks.
The decorated U.S. Marine veteran told WGN News the confusion began when he got a letter in the mail from Bellwood Police in the spring.
“It said my vehicle had been identified in an accident,” Middleton recalled, adding that he thought it was a simple case of mistaken identity. “I knew that I hadn’t traveled to Bellwood or even near Bellwood and obviously, my car wasn’t damaged.”
The confusion grew when he said he arrived at the police department for a meeting in May to clear things up and the detective handcuffed him.
“He said, ‘put your hands behind your back,’ and I asked him, ‘why, why do I need to do that?’” Middleton said. “He said, ‘don’t resist, don’t ask questions, we’ll explain later.’ I was read my rights.”
Middleton says the supposed car accident he was there for was a ruse, a made-up story police used to get him to the station. Middleton claims officers detained him for seven hours as part of an investigation into another unidentified crime.
“I don’t know how I became a suspect,” he told WGN News.
He says officers kept his phone for two months. Still, he has not been charged.
Middleton’s lawyer, Jordan Marsh, has now filed a federal civil rights lawsuit accusing the detective and the village of false arrest and unlawful detention. Marsh says that while it is legal for police to bring in suspects under false pretense, he views Bellwood’s actions as abuse.
“To bring someone in without probable cause to believe they’ve committed a crime is unconstitutional,” Marsh said. “To detain someone without reasonable suspicion to believe they’ve committed a crime is unconstitutional. Essentially, it’s the police being bullies.”
Middleton revealed the experience resurfaced the feeling of hypervigilance he brought home from five combat tours to Iraq and Afghanistan, where he received the Purple Heart after being shot in the line of duty.
“I don’t know from moment to the next whether I’m going to be driving to the grocery store, with my kids in the car, if I’m going to be pulled over by the police and then detained,” Middleton said.
WGN News reached out to the Village of Bellwood Mayor Andre F. Harvey. The village would cooperate fully with any investigation, Harvey said. Lawyers representing the village and the detective did not respond to requests for comment.
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