PEKIN — A Pekin police officer was discharged Wednesday for slapping a handcuffed juvenile who had insulted him and misstating the details of the incident.
The city Board of Fire and Police Commissioners unanimously voted to end the 13-year Pekin career of Nathan Ujinski, 38, who still faces felony charges in the case.
While a guilty verdict for aggravated battery could also have forced Ujinski’s end as a police officer, Police Chief John Dossey chose to pursue that outcome through department misconduct charges rather than seek a lesser punishment, such as suspension.
“The integrity (issue) was a big sticking point for me,” Dossey said after the commission’s vote, which followed a hearing in the case last week. “It’s more the inaccuracies he provided.”
A police squad car video and witnesses’ testimony contradicted Ujinski’s story of the incident, Dossey said.
Ujinski had been on unpaid leave since he was indicted in late August for the incident early July 10 outside Pekin Hospital.
He and other officers responded after midnight to a fight at 2005 Market St., where they arrested the youth and another person and took them to the hospital for injuries stemming from the fight.
The youth, whose age was not made available, remained combative at the hospital and, after treatment, was restrained at his feet and wrists and wheeled in a wheelchair back to a squad car for his trip to jail, according to court and police commission records.
When the youth sat in the car’s rear seat but refused to put his feet inside, Ujinski reached in through a window and pulled him onto the seat. The youth responded by twice calling Ujinski a “little bitch.”
Ujinski acknowledged in an internal department investigation that he slapped the youth’s face with an open hand — allegedly, four or five times. He said he did so with concern that the youth was about to try to “headbutt me, bite me, I don’t know. I just know he’s coming at me,” according to Dossey’s complaint.
That didn’t jibe with the video and “witnesses,” presumably other officers at the scene, Dossey stated.
Ujinski was “an excellent officer, with vast experience, (who) did a good job,” Dossey said He “got caught up in an incident,” then tried to escape it with false statements.
“When an officer crosses that line, I have to be responsible to the public,” he said. “It’s what the community expects.”
The youth suffered no bruises from Ujinski’s slaps, the commission determined.
Ujinski remains free on bond pending his next court appearance Jan. 23 on charges of aggravated battery and official misconduct.”
Follow Michael Smothers at Twitter.com/msmotherspekin