“We think he was murdered in the Lake County Jail,” said Eugene Gruber’s cousin, Charles Gruber, formerly a police chief in Elgin and SouthBarrington.
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R.I.P. Eugene Gruber 6/12/1960 – 3/3/2012
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During Gruber’s incarceration, security videos show, deputies hoisted him by the armpits and carried him, legs dragging, through the jail. Other images appear to show an officer holding a slumping Gruber up for his mug shot. No cameras were present in the cells where the pepper-spraying and take-down maneuver occurred, so investigators had to rely on witness reports, some of which contained conflicting statements, according to records. When Gruber was taken to the hospital almost 24 hours later, jail officials apparently failed to relay to doctors there that Gruber was complaining of paralysis or might have suffered a spinal injury, and a back stabilizer was not used when he was brought in.
Gruber had spent the past month at Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital in Chicago, said Mark Smolens, an attorney representing Gruber’s family. “It shouldn’t have happened,” Smolens said. “He walked into the jail. Then a couple of hours later … he’s obviously paralyzed — notwithstanding the fact they dragged him around the jail like a sack of potatoes for almost 24 hours until the following the day.” The paralysis apparently was from the mid-chest down, affecting Gruber’s diaphragm, Smolens said. Gruber could talk when off the ventilator for short periods of time, but could not swallow and was on an all-liquid protein diet, Smolens said. Before he was moved to Schwab, records show, Gruber was in the intensive care unit. Investigators tried to interview him there on Dec. 10 but “due to Gruber’s condition, he was unable to speak but he could communicate by pointing at letters on a board,” a report states. At that time, Gruber communicated that an officer had twisted his head and neck in a violent manner, according to the report. A doctor at Waukegan’s Vista Medical Center East, where Gruber was first taken, said Gruber told her that while in jail, “the police put his head between his legs like a wheel or windmill. Gruber continued saying the police drug him around on the floor and left him to die as a dead noodle,” according to an interview with investigators.
Officers reported Gruber refused to put on the clothing, so they began forcibly dressing him. One officer forced Gruber to the ground by pulling his head down with his right hand, and grabbing his left shoulder with the other in a twisting motion, according to interviews. They tried to photograph him about midnight, according to a report, initially deleting a photo from the system because it showed a correctional officer in the background who appears to be propping up Gruber. About 8 a.m. officers again attempted to photograph Gruber but found his condition had deteriorated to the point that they called for a nurse. Over the course of the day, Gruber repeatedly told correctional officers he couldn’t walk and was paralyzed, according to records. The nurse rubbed the bottoms of Gruber’s feet, then told an officer, “If he is really paralyzed he will urinate himself,” according to the officer, the nurse was later fired.
24 Hours after his arrival The nurse found that Gruber slurred his words, his skin was pale, his feet were cold and purple and he could not hold up his head. She “noticed Gruber turn blue and his eyes started to roll back.” She found a faint pulse and advised others to call 911 for an ambulance, the report states. Gruber was transported by ambulance to Vista Medical Center East, where doctors found him to be critically ill with low blood pressure and a collapsed left lung. Doctors weren’t initially unaware he had suffered an upper spine injury and had been told he was suffering from alcohol withdrawal, records show.They later determined he had a broken neck and performed two surgeries.The neurological surgeon, Dr. Robert Erickson, said the twisting maneuver likely caused Gruber’s injury, according to an interview with investigators. He described this type of injury as “being seen in severe car crashes and sometimes found in football injuries, where a person is tackled by two or three players and has his head, neck and body twisted in several different directions.”
Christen Bishop, chief of special investigations for the state’s attorney’s office, said before Gruber’s death that she had closed the case.
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