CHICAGO — A man who was slammed to the pavement by a CPD officer in a now-viral video is facing felony charges Sunday, as prosecutors allege he served time for altercations with police in the past.
Just before 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving, police say 29-year-old Bernard Kersch was stopped by officers for drinking from a bottle of vodka near 79th Street in the city’s Chatham neighborhood. At one point in the encounter, a bystander's camera was recording as an officer grabbed Kersh, lifted him and slammed him into the ground.
"He slammed and picked him up and 'pow' on the concrete,” a witness said. “He hit his head very hard."
Kersch appeared before a judge today to face charges including aggravated battery of a police officer. Prosecutors say Kersch immediately became combative and verbally abusive when officers stopped to speak to him, licking an officer on the cheek before spitting in his eye and mouth before he was taken into custody.
Appearing outside court Sunday, Kersch's mother said he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and she was on the phone with him as officers approached.
“I’m looking at this video and I see my son laying on the ground lifeless,” Keshia Johnson said. “And I didn’t know if he was alive or not.”
Police say Kersch resisted several times before the officer used what they called an "emergency takedown" to place him into custody.
Video of the takedown sparked outrage as it spread online. Mayor Lightfoot tweeted, "while a single video does not depict the entirety of the interactions between the police and the individual this particular video is very disturbing."
The Chicago cop involved in the incident has been relieved of his police powers, pending a review. Lightfoot said it will be investigated by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA).
The incident was also captured by police video and security cameras from at least one nearby store. A CPD spokesperson said the department is not aware of any bodycam footage of the incident.
In addition to a felony count of aggravated battery of a peace officer, Kersch was charged with two misdemeanors of resisting arrest and assault. He was also charged with drinking alcohol on the public way. Kersch is due in central bond court tomorrow.
Accompanied civil rights attorneys and the Reverend Jesse Jackson outside court Sunday, Johnson said her son is still feeling the affects.
"He was lightheaded and his head has been... feels the same way," Johnson said.
Reverend Jackson says in his opinion the officer was too aggressive, and it’s a good moment for the mayor to set the tone of her administration.
"It reinforces the ugliness in the Chicago police. The mayor as an opportunity to address this issue before It gets further out a control," Jackson said.
In court Sunday prosecutors said Kersch has a criminal history, including a similar incident in recent years where he spit on a police officer. In October 2018 he was convicted of Felony Resisting Police for spitting on an officer and served 18 months in a state prison. In September 2011, he also served 2 years probation and 4 months in jail for aggravated battery to a police officer and felony theft.
A judge set Kersch's bail at $5,000, and if released he will have to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet.