LANSING — The U.S. Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the June 24 incident involving an off-duty white Lansing police officer and a black teen, according to Andrew Stroth, a civil rights attorney who is representing the teen.
Lansing officer William Mason can be seen holding down and threatening 15-year-old Jordan Brunson on Mason's front lawn in a video that quickly went viral with millions of views on Facebook.
At one point, the officer says, “If you come back on my property again, I’m going to (expletive) kill you."
A statement issued by Lansing said the off-duty officer found a backpack in his fenced-in backyard containing a baseball hat and a BB gun before seeing a 15-year-old on his property, bleeding from the face.
The involvement by DOJ "clearly sends a signal and a message to Lansing that what they saw on video has risen to the level as a case they would actually investigate," Stroth, with the Chicago-based Action Injury Law Group, said Friday.
"I think the fact that you have the Department of Justice coming in to assess this case of police misconduct, this police brutality is important," he said.
A DOJ spokeswoman declined comment Friday, stating that "as a matter of policy, the Department of Justice does not confirm, or otherwise comment, on the existence or nonexistence of investigations."
A village spokesman was not immediately available for comment Friday afternoon.
The officer was put on paid administrative leave June 30, pending the results of a Cook County Sheriff's Department investigation. Lansing also contacted the Illinois State Police and FBI, but both declined to handle the investigation.
At a recent community forum to address the controversial video, Village President Patt Eidam said "one incident ... does not define our community."
Lansing Police Chief Dennis Murrin at the forum estimated his department has had near 100,000 interactions with citizens in the last three years and received only 13 complaints.
The Cook County Sheriff's Department is reviewing the case at the request of Lansing. Lansing also contacted the Illinois State Police and FBI, but both declined to handle the investigation.
A civil rights lawsuit was filed Aug. 3 in Chicago federal court earlier this month against the officer and the city of Lansing, court records show.