Resident Officer Eric Thurmond on administrative leave, linked to ongoing criminal investigation by police

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — A Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office document, obtained by 13 Investigates, identifies a nationally known Rockford Police officer as part of an ongoing criminal and internal investigation.

Officer Eric Thurmond | Credit: Rockford Police Department

The officer in question, Eric Thurmond, denied knowing anything about an investigation during a recent conversation with 13 Investigates.

“No, I’m sure whatever it is will be resolved though,” Thurmond said when asked about a public record linking him to an investigation.

“People love to spread rumors though. I wish I had more information for you.”

Police won’t release the details surrounding the investigation, but according to the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office, the incident under investigation happened on May 23.

Rockford Police confirmed that Officer Thurmond was put on paid administrative leave on May 24. When asked why Thurmond was put on leave, the city said they “can’t comment in detail on a specific personnel matter.”

The Rockford Police Department, along with the sheriff’s office, have denied Freedom of Information Act requests 13 Investigates submitted as we fight to find out more information.

13 Investigates reached out to the Illinois Attorney General’s Office to challenge the denials from both departments. That office forwarded 13 Investigates an explanation from the sheriff’s FOIA officer on why Winnebago County will not release information. It reads:

“The investigation was turned over to the Rockford Police Department because [Eric Thurmond] is a Rockford Police Officer. I contacted that agency and was advised that the case was still pending a criminal investigation and was pending an internal investigation.”

Thurmond, according to online court documents, has not been charged with any crime.

As for Rockford Police, the attorney general’s office requested the opportunity to review the withheld documents, and also sought a written response. The attorney general’s request was made on Aug. 1. According to state statute, the department has seven business days to respond to the attorney general. As of Aug. 14, the attorney general’s office says no response has been received and a second request for records has been made.

Both departments declined interview requests on the matter, along with Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara.

Requests for interviews were prompted after 13 Investigates learned from an online neighborhood association posting that Officer Thurmond was not performing regular duties. Through Facebook, the Keith Creek Neighborhood Association told residents to contact Officer Chuck Keen until further notice.

Keith Creek is the neighborhood Officer Thurmond serves and lives in as a Resident Officer Community Keeper — or ROCK officer.

Through Facebook, the neighborhood association indicated Officer Thurmond was injured and would be back to work soon. Since then, multiple neighbors in Keith Creek have told 13 Investigates they haven’t seen Officer Thurmond in “months” and did not know why he was not around.

13 Investigates went to Thurmond’s ROCK house on 15th Street, where he still lives, and asked him why he was not on duty. He said he injured his shoulder fighting MMA and it might require surgery.

A photo posted on Facebook by Eric Officer Thurmond on May 13, 2019 was captioned, “The goal is to have kids run up to my police car to get a high five rather than running away.”

The ROCK program began in 2017. Through it, Officer Thurmond and one other officer live in the neighborhoods they patrol. The initiative is part of the force’s efforts to reduce crime through building relationships.

City records show Thurmond lives rent and utility free in the ROCK program house, which is sponsored by the Winnebago County Housing Authority. He remains listed on the city’s website as a resident officer in that house.

Officer Thurmond became well known across the city for his work with youth in his neighborhood, and across the community, with numerous viral videos of him dancing, interacting and engaging with children.

He was active on social media, but his most recent public Facebook post was dated May 22, the day before the incident under investigation and two days before he was put on paid leave.

Officer Eric Thurmond speaks to students during a school assembly in October 2018. Photo Credit: Facebook

Thurmond was also a fixture at numerous community events, hosting block parties, ice cream socials, job fairs and youth camps. So far this summer, based on attendance by 13 WREX reporters, he has been absent at many of those same events.

The Rockford Register Star named Thurmond as one of its “People to Watch in 2019” and he received the Jan Jones Service Award from the Golden Apple Foundation, where he serves as a board member. Videos featuring him dancing have gone viral and he’s been featured in The Wall Street Journal.

13 Investigates has multiple Freedom of Information Act requests under review by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office and is awaiting numerous other requests from police agencies.

We will continue to update you on this story when new any new information is made available.

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