On SwimSwam Podcast, we’re giving you an in-depth listen at all things swimming. Host Coleman Hodges welcomes guests and guest co-hosts alike to get perspective on our ever-changing swimming universe and break down the past, present, and future of aquatic sports.
We sat down with Jaylan Butler, a rising junior on the Eastern Illinois swim team who was forcibly arrested by police who mistook him for someone else at a rest stop as his his team’s bus was coming home from their conference championships in February of 2019.
We started the conversation with how Jaylan got into swimming and ended up at EIU. Jaylan was a latecomer to the sport, starting competitively when he was 14, and attributed his coaches as the reason he stuck with it and continued his career onto college. Freshman year was a big transition for him, but he ended the season on a high note at the Summit League Championships, registering best times in multiple events. However, on the way home from the meet, police mistook him for a suspect in a nearby crime. Per our previous reporting:
In February of 2019, his team was on a bus returning home from the Summit League Championships. When the bus stopped at a rest stop in Illinois, police mistook Butler for a suspect they were pursuing and handcuffed him face-down in the snow. According to the lawsuit filed by the ACLU, an officer had a knee on Butler’s back and another pointed a gun at Butler’s head, threatening to shoot him. When police realized they had the wrong suspect, instead of letting Butler free, they kept him handcuffed, searched his pockets, and told him they were arresting him for resisting arrest, the suit says. Police only released Butler when he could provide photo ID.
** Though the police department has refused to give the names of the officers present, the ACLU has tracked down four of the six officers involved and filed a lawsuit for false arrest and excessive force. SwimSwam has filed Freedom of Information Act requests for more information about the officers and any prior complaints against them. **
Jaylan told us about his initial reaction to the situation, as well as how he tried to process and recover from it over the course of the next year. He said his sophomore season was great in terms of training in the water, but his racing did not translate that at all. It wasn’t until the 2020 conference championships where he realized this incident was having a negative effect on his performances.
We finished our conversation with Jaylan’s advice on how to make sure we are creating a safe and welcoming environment for people of color, whether that’s in the pool or outside of it.
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Music: Otis McDonald