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Former Joliet cop accused in beating found innocent

A Will County jury on Wednesday found a former Joliet police officer accused of beating a woman during an arrest not guilty on all counts.

Thomas O’Connor, 37, was charged with aggravated battery after the February 2012 incident in which he punched Shantique Jackson more than 20 times while attempting to arrest her.

The jury deliberated about two hours before returning the verdict before Judge Carla Alessio-Policandriotes.

Afterward, O’Connor briefly thanked the jury; his attorneys, Jeff Tomczak and Dan Rippy; and his family for their support.

“I’m very pleased with the verdict,” Tomczak said. “It’s heartwarming to see the citizens, by way of this jury, standing up for the police officers. It’s good to see that the citizens understand how hard their job is, how dangerous their job is.”

Authorities said O’Connor committed a crime when he repeatedly punched the woman in the head and face before handcuffing her.

Defense attorneys said O’Connor was using his training properly to arrest an unruly person, making split-second decisions under difficult circumstances.

Jackson, 42, claims O’Connor gave her two black eyes, a nasal fracture, a scratch on her eyeball and bruises on her face and scalp on Feb. 9, 2012, in the parking lot of the Star Inn, 2219 W. Jefferson St., Joliet.

O’Connor was fired from the Joliet Police Department after the incident.

Jackson had called police about 1 a.m. to report a fight with her boyfriend, Anthony Layne. Jackson said she was at the motel to see Layne, who was living there, and caught him with another woman.

O’Connor responded to her call, and was the only policeman there until a backup officer arrived after Jackson was in custody, evidence showed.

While O’Connor was there, Jackson and Layne, who attorneys said is a convicted murderer, began to argue again, and Jackson kicked Layne in the groin, according to testimony.

O’Connor then tried to arrest Jackson, slammed her to the hoods of two different cars in the parking lot and punched her in the head more than 20 times, a surveillance video, which was played in the courtroom, shows. It also reveals that O’Connor eventually took Jackson to the ground and hit her a couple of more times before he handcuffed her.

O’Connor testified Wednesday morning that he punched Jackson, who is about the same size as him, as many times as necessary to gain control of a chaotic situation.

He was concerned about his safety during the incident, O’Connor said, as Layne and others were around at the time and he was working alone at a motel known as a site for past criminal activity.

Jackson testified Tuesday that she didn’t have a chance to put her hands behind her back before O’Connor began to punch her in the face. O’Connor said he gave her three or four seconds to comply with his order to give him her hands before he hit her.

Jackson resisted O’Connor’s attempts to handcuff her for about 40 seconds, O’Connor said, while he repeatedly yelled at her to give up her hands.

Jackson denied that she tried to resist O’Connor. She was arrested for domestic battery and resisting arrest, but the charges were dropped.

O’Connor said he punched Jackson because it was what he was taught to do to gain control of a situation.