Evanston police forcefully handcuff man mistaken for armed robbery suspect


Colin Boyle/Daily Senior Staffer

Police vehicles in Evanston. Gregory Hall, an Evanston resident, was mistaken for an armed robbery suspect and forcibly arrested on Monday.

Nikki Baim, Reporter

A 60-year old Evanston man was injured Monday when he was handcuffed by Evanston Police after they mistook him for an armed robbery suspect.

Two officers approached Gregory Hall as he was leaving the Evanston Public Library south branch, located at 900 Chicago Ave., around 5 p.m. Police were searching for suspects in an armed robbery at 920 Chicago Ave. that occurred around 4:30 p.m., Evanston police Cmdr. Ryan Glew said.

Hall, who is black, said two officers approached him as he was crossing the street in front of the library. The officers drew their guns and commanded him to stop. Hall said he was handcuffed and frisked amid his objections. Police searched through Hall’s pockets for a gun and patted him down.

The handcuffs were too tight and police forced him down to his knees, Hall said.

“I’ll never forget this the rest of my life,” he said. “They said that I had just committed an armed robbery and had a gun. … I’ve never owned a gun in my life.”

Police said Hall — who had his hood up and was wearing multiple layers of clothing — matched the description of the suspect from the armed robbery. The suspect was described as a black male in his 50s to 60s with a scruffy beard. One witness to the robbery said the suspect wore a plaid shirt, police said. Hall said he was wearing a blue Champion t-shirt.

Elisha Hall, the son of Gregory Hall, said his father does not have a scruffy beard.

Gregory Hall said he asked the police repeatedly to ask the librarian if he had just come from the library, but they refused. Glew said Hall was not physically resistive, but was not “very cooperative.”

Police instead brought the woman who was robbed to see if she could identify Hall. She said she didn’t know, but added that Hall was not wearing a plaid shirt.

“When people are leaving the area, they will shed clothes or put on clothes,” Glew said. “Clothing description is good, but not always the most reliable.”

Police released Gregory Hall a few minutes later when the suspect was located in another part of Evanston. The suspect police found was 5-foot-8 and “thicker in build.” Gregory Hall described himself as a “thin man” who is 6-foot-2.

As Gregory Hall left the scene, he called his son yelling and screaming about being arrested.

“It was extremely scary,” Elisha Hall said. “I’ve never had to tell my father to calm down before. I thought if he didn’t calm down he was going to have a heart attack.”

Gregory Hall brought a sergeant into the library after his release, and the librarian confirmed he was in the library minutes before he was stopped by police. He frequents EPL, though his son said he prefers the main location. A minor bike accident led him to visit the south branch, which he can reach on foot from his Evanston home.

Police said they tried to document Hall’s injuries, but he did not want to identify himself.

Hall said he was taken to Saint Francis Hospital about a half hour after the arrest. He received a brace on his wrist, though no bones were broken, and was referred to an orthopedic specialist to undergo treatment. He also had swollen fingers and bruised knees.

Elisha Hall shared his father’s story on his blog to capture the public’s attention. About 300 people shared the post on Facebook and over 600 people have reacted to the story, he said, adding that friends and strangers have responded to the post with their own stories.

Gregory Hall has worked as a wellness consultant and massage therapist throughout the Chicago area for 25 years. He said the brace on his wrist is preventing him from working.

“I need my hands for my livelihood,” Hall said. “If I don’t have my hands, it hurts my income. It hurts everything.”

Hall’s detainment comes three months after Evanston’s city manager and police chief signed a letter expressing regret to the father of Iain Bady, a 12-year-old boy arrested in July for riding on the back pegs of a bike in downtown Evanston. Early last year, EPD also released a video showing the 2015 arrest of Lawrence Crosby, a Northwestern graduate student someone mistook for stealing a car, which belonged to Crosby.

Two body cameras captured the incident and are being used in an investigation into use of force by the officers, Glew said.

Gregory Hall said he doesn’t believe the scene needed to escalate to the use of force when the officers could have verified his story at the library.

“I’m not happy with what’s going on so I want to let other people know that they have choices,” Hall said.

Clarification: This article was updated to clarify the language surrounding Gregory Hall’s encounter with the police.

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