Western Courier

VanBrooker elaborates on vertigo claim

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Nicholas Ebelhack, editor-in-chief

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McDonough County Sheriff Rick VanBrooker responded to reckless driving and DUI allegations on Friday, backing up his initial claim that he has vertigo.

VanBrooker, who responded to the allegations on Feb. 6, said that he had been to a doctor prior to the April 4, 2017 incident, in which a concerned citizen called the Macomb Police Department’s non-emergency number after he pulled into his driveway.

In his statement, VanBrooker said that the symptoms of vertigo match the description of the incident.

“Vertigo comes in many forms and lengths of duration,” reads VanBrooker’s statement. “If one goes online and does a search for vertigo you will find a more detailed account. In one site (Emedicinehealth.com) one will find the following statements. If true vertigo exists symptoms include a sensation of disorientation or motion.”

From the April 4 call, Vanb\Brooker was described as disoriented and “glassy-eyed.”

“The person may have visual disturbances, weakness, difficulty speaking, a decreased level of consciousness and difficulty walking,” reads VanBrooker’s statement.

The caller said that VanBrooker nearly hit his truck, and that when asked if he knew where he was VanBrooker responded with “I’m just getting comfortable.”

“I have served McDonough County for 11-and-a-half years now and am proud of what has been accomplished at the Sheriff’s Office,” reads VanBrooker’s statement. “It is unfortunate that I would need to discuss my medical issue in public, but unfortunately accusations have been put forth in the heat of a political campaign. I hope this will help set the record straight.”

VanBrooker also accompanied his statement with a letter from Dr. Curtis C. Farr of the Springfield Clinic in Macomb, who VanBrooker said had known about his condition before the incident.

“I am writing in regards to my patient, Richard VanBrooker,” Farr said. “He is a 56-year-old gentleman with a history of vertigo. This does occur intermittently and without warning. His symptoms resolve spontaneously in just a few minutes.”

These responses came after a claim from former State’s Attorney James Hoyle, who accused VanBrooker of driving under the influence of alcohol, and the McDonough County Sherriff’s department for covering up the incident.

Hoyle posted on his Facebook page, calling for an investigation into the incident, which quickly circulated amongst community members, in addition to audio files of the citizen’s call describing VanBrooker and Chief Deputy Nick Petitgout calling the operator who put VanBrooker’s name out over the radio.

Petitgout, who some say is sarcastic or chastising in his demeanor during the call, responded that he was shocked to hear VanBrooker’s name over the radio that day.

“My reaction was simply one of surprise,” Petitgout said on his McDonough County Sheriff Campaign Facebook page. “The conversation ended there. I want to make it clear that the dispatcher did nothing wrong.”

These allegations and responses came a month before the McDonough County Sherriff elections, in which there are three candidates running as republicans. Petitgout, McDonough County Sheriff’s Office Detective, Justin Lundgren, and Operations Warden for the Canton Illinois, Bryan Baca, have all released statements since the allegations were made.

“The law should apply to everyone equally, and the department should have the public’s trust,” Lundgren said in a statement to Tri States Public Radio. “But politicizing the allegations of misconduct by the Sheriff or the Chief Deputy, at this point, would be inappropriate. It could develop into an ongoing investigation and I’m not going to politicize that.”

“The McDonough County Sheriff and that department should not have been handling that call,” Baca said in a statement to Tri States Public Radio. “As soon as they found out it was the sheriff it should have been diverted to handle. That way there wouldn’t be this tenor of wrongdoing so to speak.”

The three candidates will meet Tuesday at the Macomb High School Library at the League of Women Voter’s forum on Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. before the March 20 election.

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
VanBrooker elaborates on vertigo claim