Holten alleges police misconduct in Genoa case
By: Dan Campana, Sunday Chronicle: April 6th, 2003
First, two Genoa police officers shot Dellace Holten Jr. as he cowered inside a car last May. Then, they lied to investigators and tampered with evidence.
Those claims come from court papers, filed in Ogle County in February, included with a 78-page motion seeking to dismiss charges Holten faces in connection with the May 7, 2002, incident that began with a high-speed chase in Genoa and ended with Holten being wounded three times by Sgt. Robert Smith and Officer John Klink.
An Illinois State Police investigation that concluded last summer absolved Smith and Klink of any wrongdoing, but Holten contends they should have been charged with, among other offenses, attempted murder.
Both officers claimed self defense, saying Holten attempted to run them down with a car while on a farm in Monroe Center.
Holten, 38, has been charged in Ogle County with burglary, reckless conduct and criminal damage to state-supported property. Officials in DeKalb County charged him with aggravated fleeing to elude police and possession of a stolen motor vehicle.
He is being held at the Dixon Correctional Center on a parole violation, with a scheduled release date of May 8. It is not known which county he will be sent to upon his release from prison.
Holten’s case is set for an April 14th status hearing, at which time a date for the motion to be heard will likely be set, Holten’s Ogle County attorney, Dennis Riley Said. Riley declined any additional comment.
“I don’t intend to try the case in the media,” Riley, a public defender, said.
Smith and Holten offer two different stories about how the 12-mile chase, which at one point topped speeds of 100 mph on Route 72, began.
Smith told a DeKalb County judge in June that he attempted to pull over the 1998 Firebird, later determined to have been stolen from Rockford, driven by Holten after clocking it at 56 mph in a 35 mph zone as he headed north on Route 23. Smith said the situation quickly escalated into a chase when Holten sped away after turning onto westbound Route 72.
A page from Sgt. Jerome Costliow’s report, included with Holten’s motion, states Holten told police “he was trying to get away from the police because he had crack cocaine in the vehicle.”
Holten, on the other hand, claims he began to pull over on Route 72 right after turning from Route 23. While doing so, Holten’s passenger, LeShaun Stiffer, saw “the occupant of the patrol car brandish a gun.”
“At the same time, Sgt. Smith voiced over his public address system, “Pull over. I mean it, I’ll shoot, pull over,” Holten’s motion reads. “I took off out of panic and fear, as the threat was made with gun drawn…”
Genoa Police Chief Pat Solar finds Holten’s assertion about Smith drawing his gun during the chase unreasonable.
“The allegation that (Robert) Smith had his gun drawn is absolutely ridiculous,” Solar said.
Later, after Holten says former Police Chief Don Smith radioed for the chase to end, Robert Smith again said he would shoot Holten if he did not stop. Holten’s motion indicates that videotape from Smith’s in-squad video camera includes an audio portion where Smith is heard threatening to shoot.
In the narrative portion of Smith’s report on the chase, which was included with the motion, he stated “the audio portion was not turned on, only the video portion.”
Solar, who worked for the Sycamore Police Department at the time of the chase, said he was listening to radio traffic and heard Don Smith call off the chase. Hoever, the limited range for Genoa’s radio frequency made it so officers could not pick up transmissions beyond the Genoa city limits.
During a preliminary hearing in Ogle County last September, state police Sgt. Jerome Costliow testified that Holten “accelerated at a high rate of speed in a backwards direction” towards the officers in an apparent attempt to flee the garage.
However, in the motion filed by Holten – in which he claims Costliow’s testimony was “false, misleading and perjerous” – he states Klink shot him in the left hand before ever starting the Buick LeSabre he was hiding inside.
Holten writes, “I immediately started the car with the intent to escape, in complete fear for my life. Another shot was fired. I placed my head under the steering wheel and backed up immediately.”
Holten’s narrative continues by saying the LeSabre got “hung up on” Klink’s squad car. At that point, he got into a fetal position on the floorboard of the car.
“While laying down, three more shots were fired. All three came from the rear of the LeSabre,” the motion reads. Walter Wittwer, the owner of the farm where the shooting took place, previously told the Chronicle the LeSabre was backing out of the garage when a squad car blocked it.
During the Ogle County hearing, Costliow said the investigation determined the officers warned Holten before any shots were fired. Holten suffered three gun shot wounds to his left hand, buttocks and chest area. His motion states a doctor said his injuries are consistent with someone who was lying down when shot.
Holten has filed a federal lawsuit against Klink, Smith, the city of Genoa and the police department alleging excessive force and violations of his civil rights.
After reviewing the case information, Solar, who took over as police chief in January, said the officer’s actions complied with department guidelines.
“They were justified in their use of deadly force,” Solar explained. “(Holten) is going to try and color this situation the best he can. He’s just building a story.”
In addition, Holten alleges:
- The videotape taken by Klink’s in-squad video camera was tampered with. Holten says police claimed Klink’s camera was not activated the day of the chase, but says a videotape shows Klink making a traffic stop at 11 p.m., just hours after the shooting.
The portion of the tape preceding the stop contains several minutes of “snow,” leading Holten to say part of the tape had been erased. He makes a similar claim against Smith.
- Don Smith lied when he said Klink and Smith were immediately placed on leave following the shooting.
- A shell casing from a bullet fired by Klink into the front of the LeSabre was moved outside the garage. State investigators found a bullet in the car’s hood, though Klink said he fired three shots from the rear.
“Klink…lied about where he was standing and where his shots were fired, but importantly, Klink lied because he knew that he is the one that cased the defendant to back (the LeSabre) up…,” Holten Asserts.
In total, Holten’s motion states, “That at no time did the Illinois State Police ever seek to charge officer Klink or Sgt. Smith for any crime, despite the forensic evidence, despite the clear lies told, and instead charged me, based on knowingly fraudulent facts, essentially a sham investigation.”
Illinois State Police Lt. Mike VanVleet offered little response to Holten’s allegation, saying, “Realistically, these are allegations against the officers.”
VanVleet added the state only became involved to investigate the shooting and not the charges against Holten.
Holten’s DeKalb County case resumes Thursday. Neither Holten or his attorney, public defender Lucinda Bugden, have filed a motion to dismiss the local charges. Bugden said she is trying to get Smith’s videotape analyzed by an expert and that she expects the case will eventually go to trial.