ELMHURST – DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin declared in a May 14 statement that an Elmhurst police officer was "completely justified" in firing his weapon at a Chicago man who allegedly drove his car toward the officer.
Byron Auterberry, of the 1200 block of North Waller Avenue, was charged with aggravated assault and aggravated fleeing or attempting to elude a peace officer, both Class 4 felonies, in relation to the incident that occurred about 4:50 p.m. Feb. 27 at York Road and Crestview Avenue in Elmhurst.
Elmhurst police officer Alexander Kefaloukos and another officer conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle driven by Auterberry, who was a suspect in a retail theft. As they approached the vehicle, both officers ordered Auterberry to stop the car and get out, which Auterberry allegedly did not do, Berlin said in the statement. Kefaloukos approached Auterberry’s vehicle from the front and remained there while the other officer approached from behind.
Auterberry allegedly continued to move his vehicle forward in a jerking manner, prompting both officers to draw their guns, Berlin said. Kefaloukos then remained in front of Auterberry’s vehicle while the other officer holstered his service weapon and attempted to open the driver’s side door while still ordering Auterberry to “stop” and “open the door.” Auterberry reportedly pulled the door closed, told the officer “I’m not going back to jail” and “no” and allegedly began driving forward toward Kefaloukos, Berlin said.
As Auterberry allegedly accelerated toward Kefaloukos, forcing the officer to jump out of the way of the moving vehicle, Kefaloukos fired his gun twice through the driver’s side window, striking Auterberry with each shot, Berlin said.
Kefaloukos ultimately discharged his weapon twice, striking Auterberry once in the left forearm and once in the right thigh area, according to the statement.
Auterberry allegedly continued accelerating, crashed his vehicle into another vehicle in the curb lane and fled the scene at a high rate of speed, Berlin said.
"In accordance with Illinois law, my staff and I have reviewed the facts and circumstances of the case with special consideration given to the perspective of the officer on the scene," he said. "It is important to remember that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the appropriate amount of force necessary to bring a tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving situation under control."
Berlin argued Auterberry turned his vehicle into a deadly weapon in an attempt to escape by allegedly accelerating "quickly" in the direction of Kefaloukos, who was confronted with an imminent unlawful threat of deadly force.
He said he and his staff reviewed police reports, statements from those involved, witness accounts, physical evidence, photographs and in-car squad videos to come to the conclusion regarding Kefaloukos' actions.
"In my opinion, Officer Kefaloukos made every attempt to reach a peaceful conclusion under very stressful conditions. His concern for the safety and well-being of other motorists and the public at large is a testament to the excellent training that the Elmhurst Police Department provides for their entire force," Berlin said. "Unfortunately, Mr. Auterberry’s failure to obey the Officers’ commands and his aggressive, threatening behavior resulted in Officer Kefaloukos discharging his weapon. Had Mr. Auterberry simply listened to and obeyed the officers’ commands, this entire incident would never have happened.”
Auterberry's next court date is at 9 a.m. May 30 in courtroom 4010 of the DuPage County Courthouse.