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Officials defend son of deputy who assisted in arrest of protester

WINNEBAGO COUNTY (WREX) — Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana is defending a deputy and the deputy's son who assisted in the arrest of a protester on Friday evening.

The arrest happened in downtown Rockford when police began breaking up a protest near State and Waters streets.

Caruana says the wife of a deputy was in her car when she was swarmed by protesters. The deputy, who was off duty and in plain clothes, came to the aid of his wife, and assisted in detaining the woman as Caruana says she was trying to run away.

But in a photo circulating on social media, you see two men in plain clothes assisting in the arrest. Caruana says that other person is the deputy's son, who is not in law enforcement.

Sheriff Caruana says citizens are allowed to assist in arrests if they are asked.

"He stopped her. He physically stopped her from running away. That's OK. That's OK if he physically stopped her. He did not hurt her. He physically stopped her from running away from a Rockford Police officer to obtain control over her," Caruana said.

Rockford Police Chief Dan O'Shea also defended the action, saying it was a worried son coming to the defense of his mother.

"If his mom was being harassed or felt like she was going to get assaulted, I'm pretty sure my son would step up too whether he is directed by law enforcement or not. That's a son worried about his mother. And I'm not sure anyone else could put it any other way."

When asked if this sets a dangerous precedent, Winnebago County State's Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross said laws in Illinois do allow citizens to assist officers in making arrests. She says there are situations like this that happen all the time, and pointed specifically to traffic incidents.

"I just want to make it clear that this is not something new, that you often have citizens that are directed or not directed assisting law enforcement and they are permitted to do so under Illinois law," Hite Ross said.

Audrey Moon

Audrey is the news director at 13 WREX. She’s a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and joined the team at 13 WREX in 2014.

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