Prosecutors declined to file charges against a McHenry County sheriff’s deputy who was seen on video performing a neck restraint technique on a woman resisting arrest in June. An internal investigation is still underway.
The video, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA) by Lake and McHenry County Scanner, is from a June 17 arrest of four suspects in Woodstock.
The Woodstock Police Department responded around 5 a.m. June 17 to Blain’s Farm and Fleet, 11501 Route 14, for a report of a burglary.
Woodstock Police Chief John Lieb said officers found a fence that surrounds the rear of the property which had been cut and damaged, and property had been taken.
Officers developed information that identified a possible location of the stolen property, Lieb said.
Four people, identified as William M. Culley, Benjamin M. Holden, Andrea R. Nielsen, and Cody A. Shambo, were located by the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office.
They were found to be in possession of a vehicle and an open trailer that contained two riding lawnmowers, Lieb said.
The two riding lawnmowers and trailer were confirmed to be property of Blain’s Farm and Fleet and had been stolen from the business.
During the four suspects’ arrest, a McHenry County sheriff’s deputy, identified as Timothy Bengtson, can be seen on a Woodstock police officer’s bodycam approaching a vehicle.
Bengtson pulls out a woman, identified as Nielsen, from the passenger seat of the vehicle.
He then appears to put his arm around Nielsen’s neck as she resists arrest. The woman yells “Stop! You’re choking me!”
After the deputy and another officer take Nielsen to the ground to put her in handcuffs, she continues to yell “You choked the f–k out of me!”
Illinois law prohibits police officers from using chokeholds unless deadly force is justified.
An independent expert who reviewed the incident told prosecutors that the technique the deputy used was not a chokehold, but instead a “level one lateral vascular neck restraint.”
“Chokehold” is defined as applying any direct pressure to the throat, windpipe, or airway of another with the intent to reduce or prevent the intake of air.
A chokehold does not include any holding involving contact with the neck that is not intended to reduce the intake of air, according to Illinois statute.
The McHenry County Sheriff’s Office said on July 25 that the Woodstock Police Department sent them the bodycam video a month prior. The sheriff’s office said at the time that the video appeared to show “inappropriate use of force.”
Sheriff’s officials conferred with the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office and determined that “sufficient evidence existed warranting a criminal investigation into the deputy’s actions.”
The McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office announced on Friday they were declining to file criminal charges against the deputy as they do not believe they have sufficient evidence.
“The decision by Deputy Bengtson to use physical control measures to overcome resistance and facilitate the detention of Ms. Andrew Nielsen was appropriate and consistent with contemporary and professional police training, policy and practice,” said Steve Ijames, an independent use of force investigator, in a letter to prosecutors.
Ijames said that Bengtson’s arm contact with Nielsen’s neck was not a “chokehold” as defined by the Illinois Criminal Code, but brief seconds of a “level one lateral vascular neck restraint.”
The sheriff’s office placed the deputy on paid administrative leave following the initial investigation.
An internal investigation by the sheriff’s office was put on hold while the state’s attorney’s office investigated. The internal investigation has now resumed, officials said on Friday.
“The Sheriff’s Office holds all of its employees accountable to the criminal statutes set forth by the State of Illinois and its internal policy and procedures, in order to ensure that it can uphold its mission to protect and serve those in McHenry County,” sheriff’s officials said in a statement in July.