Drunk, despaired and damaged


by Mike Kroll

This story seems like it was lifted from a Lifetime movie only far grittier and unsuitable for network television. It was late February and the events surrounding 38 year old Jody Walls life appeared bleak. Her marriage had broken up, she was unemployed and nearly out of money. Walls says she was pretty down and depressed and spent the late night and early morning hours of Saturday, February 28th and Sunday, February 29th drinking brandy. "By that morning I was good and drunk." Sometime in the early morning hours she made a telephone call to Susan Darst, her ex-sister-in-law. "I was feeling pretty low and I guess I told Susan I wish I were dead. I didn't mean nothin' by it but Susan apparently thought I was serious."

"She [Darst] called me early that morning and said she was afraid for Jody," explains Debbie McKinney, Jody's friend and upstairs neighbor. Both women live in an old house converted into three apartments at 895 W Main Street. "I told her that I really didn't think Jody meant to hurt herself but that I would go downstairs and check on her," continued McKinney. "She asked if I thought we should call 911 for help and I said I didn't think that was necessary. I went downstairs where Jody was lying on her couch pretty drunk and we talked. Not long after that police and firemen showed up. I guess she [Darst] called 911 anyhow."

The 911 operator had alerted police, fire-rescue and GHAS of a possible attempted suicide. The first police officer on the scene at 7:25 Sunday morning was Brian Anderson, followed shortly by Russell Idle and firefighters Justin Moffitt and Mike Shepherd. When Anderson went to Walls door McKinney, who was already in Walls apartment, answered. According to Anderson's report McKinney told he and Idle that Walls had been "out drinking all night and called her this morning." All the police reports also state that McKinney placed the 911 call and told them that Walls "had taken a bunch of pills." The third police officer to arrive was Phillip Pieper whose own report states that while he was en route dispatch reported that the victim "had taken a number of Vicodine, Valium and Zanaflex."

Anderson and Idle reported entering the apartment and finding Walls lying unconscious on a couch in the living room area with a blanket over her head. Anderson attempted to speak with Walls "but she would not respond" and he "could smell a very strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from Walls." Both Anderson and Idle report unsuccessfully attempting to wake Walls up before Moffitt and Shepherd arrived "right behind the officers and took command of the situation." While the firefighters "checked Walls vitals and put her on oxygen" the police officers searched Walls apartment "for any of the possible drugs Walls could have taken." The only thing they reported finding was an empty bottle of Christian Brothers Brandy (750ml) in the trash. Pieper arrived and participated in the search of Walls small apartment.

Meanwhile firefighters Moffitt and Shepherd weren't finding Walls too cooperative as they worked to put an oxygen mask on her. According to Anderson's report Walls kept trying to remove the oxygen mask and when Idle told her to cooperate Walls reportedly said "Fuck you guys, get the fuck out of my house. I am ok." GHAS arrived and began assisting the firefighters in treating Walls on the couch. By all accounts Walls was very drunk, uncooperative and unwilling to be transported by ambulance to the hospital. According to McKinney Walls repeatedly said she was fine, just drunk, and demanded that everyone leave her alone. According to McKinney Walls repeatedly asked everyone but her to leave her apartment. When Pieper attempted to convince Walls to voluntarily get on the paramedic's gurney he reported her saying, "Fuck you, I'm not going anywhere."

Paramedics contacted the doctor in the emergency room to indicate that Walls refused treatment and transport to the hospital. Given their reports of Walls condition and the possibility that she had taken pills hospital physician Stuart Hickerson advised that see be persuaded to come in for an examination. GHAS Paramedic Michael Macklin reportedly told Walls that she needed to go to the hospital and that it would be better if she voluntarily got on the gurney. Walls continued to refuse and Officer Anderson told her "she had no choice." It was at this point that Officers Pieper and Idle grabbed Walls and lifted her from the couch. Walls fought the officers and thrashed about attempting to escape their grip. She was adamantly opposed to being taken to the hospital.

Pieper and Idle then tried to lift Walls onto the gurney as she "flailed her arms and kicked." There is no dispute that Walls fought the officers. McKinney was in the room during this event and saw what transpired as Walls was secured to the gurney. Idle and Anderson said in their reports that Walls swung at him with a closed fist but that Anderson grabbed her arm preventing her from connecting. While on the gurney but before her legs were secured Walls kicked Idle in the stomach and groin either two or three times, depending upon the witness.

Pieper reported that he "heard Officer Idle groan in pain and step back." He reported then being able to gain control of Walls and that he secured both legs to the gurney. He then heard Walls state "my eye is bleeding" upon which he looked up and saw "that Walls was bleeding from the face." Idle reported that one of Walls kicks struck him "in the left testicle" and that he "pushed his right hand out making contact with Walls upper face area to push her back." Idle also wrote: "Upon being secured, it was found that Walls had a small cut above her right eye. The paramedics looked at the cut and fount it to be minor. Walls stopped fighting and advised that the handcuffs were hurting her arms." Idle then removed the handcuffs and cuffed each of Walls wrists to a gurney side rail.

Anderson's report also mentioned Walls fighting the officers and that Walls kicked and attempted to throw at least one punch at Idle. Anderson's report states that Walls kicked Idle in the stomach and groin area "three times" and that Idle "pushed out his right hand and made contact with walls head region. ...This officer noticed a small cut on Walls forehead, which was bleeding." Galesburg Fire Department reports of the incident make no mention of either firefighter witnessing Idle strike Walls. They do concur with reports that Walls was uncooperative and combative and that she did not want to be treated or taken to the hospital.

While Walls herself does not have any clear memory of exactly what took place that night McKinney's recollection is generally in agreement with the police reports-- until you come to the point of Idle striking Walls. "He didn't push her, he punched her hard," claims McKinney. "I saw Jody resist the officers because she didn't want to go to the hospital. I told the officers and paramedics that there was no reason to take her to the hospital. She was just drunk and I was sure she had no plans to kills herself. But the cops insisted and I saw Idle punch Jody in the face. Jody said, 'I'm bleeding' and I asked Idle why he hit her. He told me 'she kicked me in the balls and nobody was going to get away with that!' Sure Jody struggled with the cops but he had no cause to off and punch her like that."

Walls was taken to the St. Mary's Medical Center emergency room. Dr. Hickerson examined and treated Walls at St. Mary's according to Pieper's report. His report also says that Hickerson reported to him that Walls was uncooperative during the medical examination and initially refused to provide either blood or urine samples at the hospital. "Hickerson advised that he had taken a look at the cut on Walls head and [Hickerson] advised that it would take five or six stitches." Walls eventually consented to provide a blood sample that reportedly showed her blood alcohol level to be 0.15. Hickerson monitored Walls briefly and then released her to Pieper's custody. Another Galesburg Police officer transported Walls to the Knox County Jail where Walls was charged with aggravated battery to a police officer and resisting arrest. Due to her medical condition Walls was not booked into the county jail but released with a notice to appear on the two charges. Public defender Jim Harrell is defending Walls on these charges.


In addition to her upcoming defense against these criminal charges Walls has hired Peoria lawyer Jay Janssen to represent her in a civil suit of police brutality against the Galesburg Police Department and officer Russell Idle. It is Walls contention that the police had no right to forcer her to be treated that night or to forcibly take her to the hospital. "I didn't want to go to the hospital and I didn't want to kill myself either. Susan [Darst] overreacted when she called 911 but Debbie {McKinney] told everyone here that night that I was alright and didn't need to go to the hospital. But no one listened to either of us. I already have enough money problems and I certainly don't need any more medical bills on top of it all!"

All three of the police reports say that it was the paramedics from GHAS that made the determination that Walls must be transported to the hospital that night in consultation with Hickerson. However, according to Rick Grower, administrative director of GHAS, his paramedics never force anyone to be treated or transported against their will, excepting children or those adults "not sufficiently alert or oriented" to make such a determination for themselves. "Everybody has the right to refuse treatment and my staff has an obligation to explain the risks involved in declining treatment and my work hard to convince an adult they feel requires treatment to consent. Our first concern is the health and safety of the victim and our paramedics may ask police officers on the scene to assist us in convincing someone to be treated. In this specific case the decision to compel treatment and transport to the hospital was not the paramedics' call."

Galesburg Police captain Lindsey May acknowledged that litigation was pending in this case and was thus reluctant to speak specifically on the events surrounding Walls incident. He did agree to state the department's general policy in regard to situations similar to this. "If we have someone suspected of being suicidal we have the authority to take them into protective custody so they may be evaluated at a medical or mental health facility. Their safety, the safety or those around them and the safety of our officers are always our principal concern. Each case is unique and the officer on the scene must make the determination of the best course of action and will usually seek guidance from medical personnel, if available."

I asked May about any history of citizen complaints against Idle and he said that department policy was not to release such information. "In general we don't release information on officer performance. In the case of Officer Idle I'd have to say generally speaking we have received nothing bu positive feedback from the community and the public about him."

It appears that in at least one case public opinion is not positive toward Idle. McKinney says there was no call for him to strike Walls despite her being uncooperative and resisting placement on the gurney. "They were manhandling her and she hadn't committed any crime and was in her own living room. Jody should have been able to say yes or no and the cops listen. You could almost say Jody was defending herself from being kidnapped from her home. When my husband showed up with a video camera shortly after Idle hit Jody the cops couldn't wait to get us out of the apartment."

"If they had simply accepted that she was merely drunk and had no intention of harming herself none of this would have happened. The only thing they had to go on was a telephone report that she might be suicidal by someone who wasn't even there. I was with Jody that morning and I told everyone that she had been down but said nothing about killing herself. The reports may say otherwise but that's just not so. No one gave them permission to search this house, but they did. Nobody found any pills here or empty bottles except for the brandy bottle but that wasn't good enough for them."