Incident Report, submitted by SHTC on Monday, June 11th, 1:30pm

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On the night of June 8, 2009, Leigh Estabrook, a member
of St. Jude Catholic Workers House Steering Committee,
contacted the Residential Volunteers of the House to
inform them that the Champaign Police were coming to
investigate the nature of complaints made by the neighbors
about late-night disturbances. In response, Jesse
Masengale, a homeless man staying at the SHTC, contacted
the officer, who had previously called Leigh, to further
inquire into the situation. He was warned that the Champaign
Police were going to stop by later that night. The
officer informed Jesse that his intention was to “make
sure there was no loitering or camping on any of the
properties adjacent to the Catholic Worker House (CWH).”
Hoping that the Champaign Police Department would
be willing to engage in an open and honest dialogue,
and maybe even lend a sympathetic ear to the situation,
SHTC decided it would speak with the officer and ask for
his advice, as to where the community could legally
relocate. Jesse called the officer, told him the SHTC
would like to talk, and then informed him of being at
the CWH. No permission was given to any officer to step
foot on the property. Two officers showed up on foot
around 9:10 p.m., with bright flashlights and a video
camera. Initially, they stayed on the parking lot directly
south of the two houses that are part of the CWH.
It was immediately clear that there wasn’t going to
be any dialogue. The two officers shined their flashlights
into people’s faces and scanned the edges of the
property with the video camera, as if investigating a
criminal activity. “We simply wanted to talk rationally
and discuss our options as to where we could sleep
legally that night,” said a member of the SHTC. The first
thing one of the officers did was to call out by name, a
member of the SHTC, a well-known friend and guest of
the CWH because of his status as a “sex offender.”
Then they asked who called. Jesse spoke up. They
asked him his age. Jesse answered 22. Then Jesse
simply asked, “Where can we go to sleep tonight?”
Ignoring the presence of females in the group, the
officer with the camera asked, “Why haven’t you
tried the Times Center or Salvation Army?” neither of
which accepts women. There were several different
responses to the question because each person had
their own particular reasons why they didn’t or were
unable to seek assistance from local shelters. Then
Jesse said, “Some of us don’t have that option.” The
officer ignored the conversation and began to film
some of the personal belongings of another homeless
man who was not part of the SHTC but had placed his
belongings on the property east of the parking lot.
The officer in charge stepped on the CWH’s property
and continued to film. Kenny Bishop and Chris Watson,
two residential volunteers, asked the officer why he was
proceeding onto the property and questioned his arrogant
and demeaning attitude. The officer was then
asked if he had a warrant to be on the property or to
film the property without consent to a video search.
Chris Watson then stated that the CWH did not consent
to the video search of the property. The officer who was
video taping claimed he was given permission and “can
do what he wants.” In response, Jesse stood in front of
the camera, blocking the lens with his hand, while others
questioned the legality of the officer’s actions.
After two verbal attempts to stop Jesse from blocking
the camera, the officer jokingly asked his partner,
“Would this be considered obstructing a peace officer?”
As Jesse continued to be in the way of the camera, the
officer snapped into frustration, turned off the camera,
and grabbed Jesse by the arm and pulled him onto the
adjacent property. While he was being detained, Jesse
told everyone “to stay together and not let the officers
push them around.” The same officer said, “What now?
I’m pushing you” and he gave a light shove to the small
of Jesse’s back.
Wanting to document the behavior of the officers,
Jesse said to Chris, “Take this; it has a camera;” he got
his cell phone from his pocket and threw it to Chris who
caught the phone. The other police officer said to his
partner, “Oh, did you see that? He threw that phone at
my head; that’s assault.” The officers became more
aggressive, taking out their batons as they put Jesse in
an arm-bend using one of the batons. Jesse did not
once resist the officers or show any force that would
make such aggression necessary. Chris followed Jesse
and the police to record the actions of the officers who
kept telling Chris to get back and that he wasn’t
allowed to follow them; they also threatened him with a
ticket. One of the officers came towards Chris with his
baton ready to strike. After Jesse was in the patrol car,
the baton-wielding officer apologized and clarified that
following an officer too closely implied a threat.
After washtching from a distance, some of the witnesses
started off in the general direction to look for
Jesse, Chris, and the officers. They were informed by an
observer, who eats regularly at the Soup Kishtchen, that
the car was parked at Central Illinois Bank parking lot,
two blocks from the house, and that the officers had one
of the two men already in custody. Members of the SHTC
and CWH, along with friends, arrived at the parking lot
to voice their concern and provide witness to the situation.
Chris had requested to speak to the officers’
sergeant concerning the legality of the video recording.
At this point, the officers stopped being aggressive
and quickly performed a city arrest for Jesse, charging
him with assault and obstructing a peace officer. They
gave him a notice to appear in court on the 28 of July
at 9:00 a.m. in Court Room F.
The officers did nothing to help or advise our homeless
Inquires can be directed to cu.tenshtcommunity at

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