By Georgette Braun and Jeff Kolkey
Rockford Register Star, Ill.
ROCKFORD, Ill. — The two bullets Rockford police officer Jaimie Cox fired into Eddie L. Patterson last year during a traffic stop that led to both men’s deaths constituted a justified use of force, Winnebago County State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato said Thursday.
That was the ruling after an eight-month investigation into the Nov. 5 fatal shooting and traffic crash. Bruscato laid out findings of the Winnebago-Boone County Integrity Task Force during a 75-minute news conference, at times showing photographs of evidence. Investigators had no dashboard video or body camera footage to rely on, instead piecing together their findings through recorded dispatch calls and physical and DNA evidence.
Officer Jaimie Cox, 30, had joined the Rockford police force in December 2016. He was a husband and U.S. Army National Guard veteran who previously worked in law enforcement for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. (Photo/Rockford PD)
Investigators concluded that Cox, 30, and Patterson, 49, got into a physical struggle while Patterson was sitting behind the wheel after an early morning traffic stop. That’s when, they say, Patterson began to accelerate while Cox was leaning into the truck. Cox radioed dispatchers to request backup, saying Patterson was trying to flee.
Cox struggled with the gearshift, DNA evidence shows, trying unsuccessfully to force it into park before the white pickup truck Patterson was driving careened into a tree at 58 mph, Bruscato said.
Cox fired twice at close range, killing Patterson, Bruscato said. An autopsy showed Patterson was shot in the chest and back and also suffered injuries in the subsequent crash. Cox died of injuries suffered in the crash.
Bruscato said Patterson’s decision to flee and not comply with orders during the traffic stop caused both men’s deaths.
“Officer Cox, who was conducting a lawful stop, would have ended his shift alive,” Bruscato said. “Furthermore, Patterson would have been arrested for obstruction of justice and driving while license revoked, and quite probably would have posted bond and gone home safely to his family as well.”
Cox stopped Patterson’s vehicle shortly after 1 a.m. near the intersection of East State Street and Dawn Avenue. Patterson was driving on a revoked license and the license plate on the 1994 Chevy S-10 pickup was expired. Patterson gave Cox a false name after stopping, Bruscato said.
The truck crashed into a tree outside the Unitarian Universalist Church, 4848 Turner St., about two blocks from the traffic stop.
Marijuana and cocaine were found in Patterson’s system, Bruscato said.
Jossie Patterson, 47, Eddie Patterson’s sister, told the Register Star that an officer had visited her workplace to give her a “heads up” on the task force’s finding as the announcement was being made. “It’s a bunch of hogwash,” she said of the finding.
“If my brother was going to flee, he would never have pulled over,” she said. “I’m not saying my brother did not have any fault, but officer Cox had fault, too.”
Craig Sandberg, an attorney representing the family of Eddie Patterson, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Winnebago County Court against the city of Rockford, arguing that the shooting that killed Patterson was not justified. On Thursday, he said the task force’s finding is “Mr. Bruscato’s opinion.” And he said he looks forward to the city and task force handing over their findings so the court proceeding can move forward.
“It really was a circus by our state’s attorney because you’re concluding that Mr. Cox was justified in the homicide of Eddie Patterson, while (Bruscato) gave no evidence of what happened to justify officer Cox for shooting Eddie Patterson,” Kingdom Authority Church Pastor Melvin Brown said during a news conference outside the home of Patterson’s family.
“We feel that Mr. Cox was very reckless and caused these events,” Brown said.
Brown and Patterson’s family are calling for the U.S. Justice Department to investigate.
Zach Meiborg, a friend of Cox’s, said he was “not at all surprised that he was clean. Jaimie was a stellar person.” Meiborg said the only “ambiguity” was that there was no dash cam on Cox’s car. Meiborg and others raised $21,575 to equip some squad cars with dash cams. The city expects within the next few years to have all of its squad cars equipped with dash cams.
Bruscato said the investigation determined that “Cox died as the result of the actions of Eddie Patterson. It is further determined that Eddie Patterson died as a result of officer Cox’s use of deadly force, and that use of deadly force was justified.”
Had Patterson survived, he would have been charged with first-degree murder, aggravated battery to a police officer and obstruction of justice, in addition to other crimes, Bruscato said.
Cox had joined the Rockford police force in December 2016. He was a husband and U.S. Army National Guard veteran who previously worked in law enforcement for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Patterson was the father of two grown daughters, the grandfather of five and a brother. He worked for 14 years for a contractor that provided setup and cleanup before and after events at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
Staff writer Ken DeCoster contributed to this report.
©2018 Rockford Register Star, Ill.