Peoria’s police chief rips judge for releasing man after gun pointed at officer

Peoria Police Chief Eric Echevarria. (Photo courtesy: City of Peoria)


PEORIA — Peoria Police Chief Eric Echevarria minced no words and held nothing back when he angrily blasted a judge’s decision to release a man from jail after he allegedly pointed a gun at one of his officers.

“What is the standard here?” the chief said angrily. “I am completely disappointed with the decision to release Mr. Childers on a GPS ankle monitor. I’m done letting this happen. What’s the message that is being sent to our police officers? Do you want them to sit back and do nothing?

According to court records, 45-year-old Brian R. Childers of Leighton, Ala., a small city in the state’s northwest corner, was charged on Tuesday with aggravated assault, a felony that could send him to prison for up to three years.

He was allowed to be free on pretrial release pending the conclusion of his case. A date for Childers to appear next in court was not listed in the online records.

The judge who made that decision was Judge Mark Gilles. Under the judicial code, judges are not allowed to comment on cases they are involved in so it’s not possible him to reply.

But Echevarria said the “community deserves better.”

In an emailed statement, State’s Attorney Jodi Hoos stressed her office “filed a petition to detain and had a hearing where we argued for detention.” 

The county’s top prosecutor said among the reasons the judge allowed Childers to remain free was his “lack of a criminal record.” However, she ended the statement with “We will be filing an appeal of that decision.”

What happened on March 18 with police and Childers?

Officers attempted a traffic stop on Honda Ridgeline pick-up truck after seeing an infraction near Starr Street and Western Avenue. Childers, the vehicle’s driver, allegedly ignored the officer and drove off quickly.

The vehicle was found later parked in a lot near Western Avenue and Howett Street. When officers approached, they said Childers was allegedly refusing to exit the vehicle and had a handgun which he pointed at officers. He fled again.

Peoria police eventually found Chiders in the parking lot of the Par-A-Dice casino in East Peoria. He again refused to comply with officers’ commands to get on the ground. He was able to be taken into custody.

On his person was found the same gun that was pointed at the officer just hours before and also, methamphetamine plus several thousand dollars. Some drugs were also found in Childers’ hotel room, the chief said.

Echevarria did not say why the officers initially targeted Childers, saying it was “irrelevant.”

“He pointed a gun at one of my officers,” the chief said. “You don’t have that right. You can’t point a gun at one of our officers. We are not going to tolerate anyone pointing a gun at anyone in the community.”

Pretrial release instead of Cash bail

What happened though is the new world of not having cash bail in Illinois.

The notion of a person posting bail to get out of jail while awaiting trial is gone. Now, a judge must weigh a slew of factors before deciding whether a person is held in custody pending the case’s completion or not.

Passed last year, the SAFE-T Act was seen as an overhaul of the criminal justice system within Illinois. Eliminating cash bail was a key component and one that galvanized people on both sides.

Proponents said it would allow people who are of low incomes and minorities, to avoid jail while awaiting trial. Those against said it could mean violent people are released when they shouldn’t be or that it’ll add to the workload of police officers on the street as snap judgments will need to be made.

If a person is held, then they are in custody until the case is finalized, either by a plea, a jury verdict, or a dismissal. If they are released, then they are allowed to remain free until something happens that might cause them to return to court. 

Offenses must either be of a certain type – a nonprobationable offense or something like stalking, violating an order of protection or other forcible felonies — or a defendant must present a “real and present threat to the safety of any person.”

A detention hearing could be delayed for 24 hours to give an attorney time to sift through evidence or it could be held each afternoon at 2 p.m. on the courthouse’s third floor.

Both side are allowed to appeal a decision.

Childers’ case

The police chief said Peoria County State’s Attorney Jodi Hoos was going to appeal the decision to release Childers. An email and text message to Hoos was not immediately returned.

The Peoria County State’s Attorney’s office, as they have daily since last fall, filed a “verified petition to deny pretrial release.” The law is worded in such a way that pretrial release is assumed unless there are reasons why it should not be.

Prosecutors here argued, as they have in other cases, that what Childers did posed “a real and present threat to the safety of any person or persons or the community.” That’s wording directly out of the SAFE-T Act.

At the court hearing, Gilles opted to release Childers, putting him on several conditions including wearing the electronic bracelet, not possessing a firearm, refraining from drugs or alcohol and not leaving the state without permission.

“It is beyond belief and beyond me how our judges can release somebody who has pointed a gun at one of my officers,” the chief said. “That’s the question that I think everybody needs to ask the judges. And that’s that’s what is the standard?

“What is the standard to detain somebody? Because just February 2nd of this year, one of our local judges was threatened via a phone call that was intercepted from the from the jail. And this person made a threat about one of our judges,” said Echevarria. “This person is unarmed. This person is in custody already. Yet he’s detained.”

WMBD can be reached at [email protected].


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