The video of the struggleSept. 23 between Northern Illinois University police officer Junelle Bennett and Ashley Lunardon of Sycamore is upsetting.
In the video, published on the Daily Chronicle website on Thursday, Bennett and another woman try – and eventually succeed – in taking a screaming baby in a car seat away from Lunardon, the child’s mother, who is struggling and screaming as she tries to keep her grip. Eventually, the two tumble to the ground, where Lunardon briefly grabs Bennett’s hair as Bennett climbs on top of her, driving her knee into her back while telling her to “stop resisting.”
It probably wasn’t necessary for things to escalate to that point. Lunardon could have been allowed to leave – police would have caught up to her.
The subsequent police reports glossed over some of the scarier parts of the video, and actually made it seem as though the officer had been attacked and beaten by Lunardon.
There’s no question, however, that Bennett was the one trying to protect the public, while Lunardon was the one who was out of control.Lunardon had just attacked another woman inside the Walmart. The woman had antagonized Lunardon – police reports say the woman had used a racial slur on social media to refer to one of Lunardon’s biracial children. We don’t condone violence, but those are fighting words.
Lunardon no doubt was in an agitated state after that. She said she wanted to step to the side of the store to smoke a cigarette, but even had she walked away and left the scene, she could have been arrested later. There are cameras all over the Walmart store, the woman she had attacked minutes earlier knew her, and Bennett or anyone else could have followed her to her car and written down the license plate number.
Just as police sometimes break off a vehicle chase rather than endanger the public, the struggle that ensued as Bennett forcibly kept Lunardon from leaving was dangerous for the 10-month-old baby in the car seat who was caught in the middle. Having her child forcibly taken out of her control no doubt agitated Lunardon further, and probably led her to fight even harder.
But there’s a lot of this episode that the minute-long video does not show.
It doesn’t show how Bennett heard someone calling for help inside the store and came to their aid. She could have chosen to simply be a bystander, but did not – and should be saluted for it.
Bennett separated Lunardon from the other woman. She identified herself as a police officer, sent someone to get her badge, and tried to keep Lunardon from leaving before DeKalb police arrived.
When someone identifies themselves as a police officer and gives a lawful command, we have a duty to obey. Run from the police, or resist them, and things are only going to get worse. Any defense attorney will tell you that you might beat the rap, but you can’t beat the ride.
As a result of the struggle with Bennett, Lunardon now faces felony charges, as does her grandmother, who police say tried to pull Bennett off of Lunardon.
Fight with a police officer, you should expect no less.
We hope any punishment Lunardon may receive in connection with this incident will take into account the mitigating circumstances.