Western Courier

Sheriff responds to DUI allegations

McDonough County Sheriff Rick VanBrooker released a statement Tuesday pertaining to allegations that he was involved in a DUI incident.

MCDONOUGH COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE

McDonough County Sheriff Rick VanBrooker released a statement Tuesday pertaining to allegations that he was involved in a DUI incident.

Nicholas Ebelhack, Editor-in-chief

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McDonough County Sheriff Rick VanBrooker responded to allegations of driving under the influence in a press release yesterday after the release of a series of audio files and a Facebook post from former McDonough County State’s Attorney James Hoyle garnered attention from community members.

The audio files, received from a Freedom of Information Act request, depict a 911 call from April 4, 2017 at 5:40 p.m., describing VanBrooker as disoriented, repeating that he was “comfortable” when questioned by the caller. The call proceeded as follows.

“This guy just came blazing down my lane and I have a lot of potholes, I mean he had to be doing 30,” said the caller. “He comes and almost hits the back of my truck. I walk up to him to make sure he doesn’t get out of the car because I have dogs out. I said, ‘Hi’. And he goes, ‘I’m just getting comfortable.’ His eyes and everything were glazed over. I asked him, ‘Do you know where you are at?’ He said, ‘I’m just getting comfortable. I don’t understand the question.’ I don’t know if this is the number to call to make sure he doesn’t hurt somebody.”

Following the call, the operator who received it put out a call for a gray or silver Nissan, driven by a white male wearing an orange shirt. A moment later, the dispatcher identifies the driver by name as VanBrooker.

Minutes later, Sheriff Department’s Chief Deputy Nick Petitgout calls the operator:

Operator: Radio.

Petitgout: What was that?

Operator: What?

Petitgout: That you just put out?

Operator: The reckless driving?

Petitgout: On the sheriff?

Operator: Yeah… oh, I didn’t even.

Petitgout: Yeah.

Petitgout then hangs up the phone.

Monday morning, Hoyle posts on his personal Facebook chastising VanBrooker and Petigout regarding the incident. As of 7 p.m. Tuesday, the post has 239 reactions and 189 comments, and has been shared over 300 times.

“I now have had the misfortune of hearing the actual 911 audio from dispatch of the caller and the call out to officers to respond to the reckless drunk driving incident,” reads Hoyle’s post. “I also could hear Nick Petitgout, candidate for McDonough County Sheriff, call in his usual sarcastic voice to chastise the dispatcher for putting out the call on the sheriff over the radio.”

Hoyle further stated that he intended to publish the audio files on his Facebook page, and calls for an investigation by the State Police and Attorney General.

“This serious citizen complaint and the attempt to cover it up should result in a call for their resignations,” reads Hoyle’s post. “We can’t have a Sheriff and a Chief Deputy that disregards protocol, public safety and the law. I ask you all to be on the look out and try to listen to the audio yourself.”

VanBrooker’s response on Tuesday directly addressed Hoyle, citing that his intentions are politically motivated, pertaining to the upcoming McDonough County Sheriff’s Election on March 20.

“I would like to first point out that the recent allegations are strictly political,” reads VanBrooker’s statement. “James Hoyle is supporting Bryan Baca in the upcoming Sheriff’s race and is attempting to use this incident to advance his candidate.

In his statement, VanBrooker admits to being the driver referenced in the audio recordings, but denies driving under the influence.

“On April 4, 2017 I was driving into Macomb when I experienced the onset of what felt like vertigo,” reads VanBrooker’s statement. “I had been to my doctor about the problem prior to this incident. I pulled off Jackson Street onto a lane and then into a drive way hoping to let the feeling pass.”

Vertigo is a sensation of uneasiness, dizziness, rotation, rocking or spinning experienced when motionless, much like how one would feel after spinning in circles and then attempting to stand still.

VanBrooker then says in his statement that he did mention getting comfortable, saying that he also told the caller needed a minute. He then says that he didn’t tell the man what he was feeling so that he would not call an ambulance.

He then says that he left and drove home once he regained himself.

“The deputies did what they should have done by searching the area where the call came from before locating me at my house,” reads VanBrooker’s release. “I had been at my house for a period of time prior to the deputy’s arrival. What was covered up? Nothing.”

He concluded his statement stating that he intends to continue to perform his duties up until his planned retirement. VanBrooker has previously announced that he will not be running for sheriff again this year. Instead, three republican candidates (Petigout, McDonough County Sheriff’s Office Detective Justin Lundgren and Illinois River Correctional Center Operations Warden Bryan Baca) seek the open position.

“I have been your Sheriff for over a decade and in that time a lot of good things have happened here at the Sheriff’s Office,” VanBrooker said. “During that time I have also made enemies that will seize upon this opportunity make baseless allegations.”

In a Facebook post published Tuesday morning, Hoyle stood by his claims.

“You have now heard the tapes, just like I posted. Now (it’s) up to you to decide what you will do about it. I hope you do the right thing.”

The Western Courier will continue to report on this story as
it develops.

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
Sheriff responds to DUI allegations