‘Appalling’ video shows Chicago cop repeatedly punching man in holding cell
The video shows Officer Enrique Delgado Fernandez delivering nearly 20 closed-fist blows to Damien Stewart in the lockup after he was allegedly caught with a gun during a confrontational traffic stop in 2019.
CHICAGO – Surveillance footage released Tuesday shows a Chicago police officer repeatedly punching a man in a holding cell more than three years ago.
The video shows Officer Enrique Delgado Fernandez delivering nearly 20 closed-fist blows to Damien Stewart in the lockup at the South Chicago District after he was allegedly caught with a gun during a confrontational traffic stop on May 18, 2019.
The video was released at a City Hall news conference by activist William Calloway, who said Stewart was moved to release the footage after watching the deadly beating of Tire Nichols by a group of police officers during a traffic stop in Memphis, Tenn. earlier this month.
Nichols’ killing, captured on video, prompted widespread protests and criminal charges against six officers.
Calloway called for the firing of Delgado Fernandez and Sgt. Jerald Williams, who also entered Stewart’s cell and grabbed him. The officers have already served suspensions, according to a police spokesperson.
“There’s no place on this police force … for that type of uncalled [for] violence on an unarmed man that’s already in police custody,” said Calloway, who helped force city officials to release the video of Laquan McDonald’s killing. “It’s uncalled for and it’s appalling.”
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In May 2021, Stewart pleaded guilty to felony counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and aggravated assault of a peace officer. That September, he reached a $45,000 settlement in a federal lawsuit he filed against Delgado Fernandez, Williams and the city.
More than a year later, Calloway said Stewart is still reeling from the beating. “These officers are still on the street,” he said. “The city never issued an apology to what the police officers did to him.”
The video, which has no sound, starts with Williams and Delgado Fernandez approaching Stewart’s cell as he lies on a cot. After the cell is unlocked, Stewart appears to push back when the officers begin searching him.
When he stands up, Delgado Fernandez pushes Stewart’s head with his hand. Stewart steps toward Delgado Fernandez and Williams grabs him and a struggle ensues.
Delgado Fernandez pushes Stewart toward the cot as Stewart appears to shove Delgado Fernandez into a wall, with Williams still grabbing onto him from the back. That’s when Delgado Fernandez begins striking Stewart in the head.
As Stewart and Delgado Fernandez fall onto the cot, Delgado Fernandez strikes him again with both fists and also appears to hit Williams. They all eventually fall to the floor, with both officers holding Stewart down before more cops arrive.
After they stand up, Stewart and Delgado Fernandez come face-to-face again, but the two officers leave the cell and Stewart begins talking to other police officials.
Police reports indicate that bad blood may have boiled over from the arrest, according to a report dated Oct. 26, 2020.
Delgado Fernandez allegedly spotted a gun in Stewart’s waistband as he refused a field sobriety test, according to the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.
Stewart allegedly reached for the gun and “slightly raised it toward” Delgado Fernandez, prompting the officer to grab for the firearm and setting off a struggle. As he was being placed in a police vehicle, Stewart allegedly was late on another cop.
Officers recovered a loaded gun and an extended magazine, COPA said. Delgado Fernandez, Williams and a third arresting officer weren’t issued body-worn cameras, so there’s no footage of the arrest.
COPA found Delgado Fernandez made unjustified physical contact with Stewart and then submitted a faulty report about the incident, the report states. He and Williams also entered Stewart’s cell without justification and failed to comply with both a special order dealing with drunken driving investigations and departmental chemical testing procedures.
The report recommended 15-day suspensions for both officers. But Supt. David Brown later sent a letter to COPA calling for a 20-day suspension for Delgado Fernandez, who reported that he had patted Stewart’s head at the start of the incident to check for drugs.
Brown insisted “there were less intrusive approaches to doing so.”
COPA’s scrutiny of Delgado Fernandez’s physical conduct only focused on that move, and the agency didn’t sustain an allegation that he “used force as punishment or retaliation.”
Delgado Fernandez completed a 10-day suspension last April after going through “the disciplinary grievance process,” according to the police spokesperson.
Williams served out his recommended suspension in November 2021, the spokesperson said. Williams, a trained mixed martial artist, previously came under investigation after he slammed a man with mental illness to the ground during a Thanksgiving 2019 arrest.
COPA also sustained allegations against five other police officials, recommending suspensions for three supervisors and reprimands for two detention aides.
On Tuesday, Stewart conceded that he’s made his “fair share of mistakes in the past,” acknowledging that he has a pending case in which he’s facing multiple felony charges. In that case, he allegedly fled from police who saw a gun in his vehicle, then crashed and falsely claimed it was stolen, according to an arrest report.
Calloway said Stewart “was in fear for his life” and took off based on his past experience in the lockup. He called for officials to drop the pending charges so Stewart can participate in a “second chance” program he leads called Passports to Peace, which offers out-of-town trips and mentoring to at-risk participants.
“I just want to try something different and be a change in my community,” Stewart said.