Macomb Local News

Following Monday's allegations of misconduct by McDonough County Sheriff Rick VanBrooker and Chief Deputy Nick Petitgout, both parties have responded. 

 

After getting back from a Sheriff's training event in Peoria, VanBrooker released the following statement to the media Tuesday, via email. 

 

"On April 4 th 2017 I was driving into Macomb when I experienced the onset of what felt like Vertigo. I had been to my doctor about the problem prior to this incident. I pulled off Jackson Street onto a lane and then into a drive way hoping to let the feeling pass. I did speak with a man who was concerned and I did mention getting comfortable and I also told him that I just needed a minute. I did not explain what was going on since I did not want him calling an ambulance. The feeling passed and I left. I went straight home and I would have been home or very close to home when the call went out. The deputies did what they should have done by searching the area where the call came from before locating me at my house. I had been at my house for a period of time prior to the deputy’s arrival. What was covered up? Nothing."  
 
"I have been your Sheriff for over a decade and in that time a lot of good things have happened here at the Sheriff’s Office. During that time I have also made enemies that will seize upon this opportunity make baseless allegations. I will continue to do the job you hired me to do to the best of my ability until I retire later this year," VanBrooker said. 
 
Nick Petitgout, the Chief Deputy who is running for the soon-to-be open Sheriff position with the impending retirement of VanBrooker, also released a statement to local media addressing the situation.  
 
Unfortunately the race for sheriff has taken an ugly turn with unsupported accusations and name calling based on political motives. I will not respond in kind, but will stick to the facts. Those facts will be presented in two parts: 1. The motivation behind the accusations, and 2. The facts of the case.
 
These are facts you need to know, which deal with motivations:
1. The former state’s attorney is related to one of the candidates.
2. That candidate’s wife used to work for the former state’s attorney.
3. The state’s attorney not only supports that candidate, but actually passed petitions for him.
4. It is no secret that the former state’s attorney had an ongoing feud with the sheriff, including telling him he would no longer represent him in any legal action. It is his job to represent the county and its elected officials and not let personal animosity affect his decisions.
5. It is also well-documented that the former state’s attorney issued an online character attack against another elected official possibly slanderous, with no proof. The attack was eventually removed from Facebook. I am disappointed, but not surprised that he once again resorts to this type of attack.
6. The incident in question occurred April 4, 2017. In February, less than 45 days before the election, he finds this “new evidence.” This had been public record since April 2017.
 
It is disappointing, but unfortunately not surprising, that the former state’s attorney would resort to this type of campaigning. It seems to me that it is certainly O.K. to support the candidate of your choice and you should present their credentials to the voters, not resort to negative campaigning.
 
The facts of the incident are as follows:
1. On April 4, 2017, a citizen called in to the 911 dispatch unit alleging a citizen driving “recklessly” and possibly under the influence giving the plate number of the car.
2. The dispatch center identified the plate as belonging to a Richard VanBrooker and the call went out.
3. Hearing the call and being on duty, I called the dispatch center and said, “What was that?” She responded, “What?” I asked, “The call you just put out.” She responded, “Mmm yeah?” (My reaction was simply one of surprise). The conversation ended there. I want to make it clear that the dispatcher did nothing wrong.
4. From that small encounter, the former state’s attorney and a few others read into that brief conversation that there was somehow a cover-up.
5. Once that conversation was over, we followed the call to where the incident began and discovered no physical damage.
6. The next stop was to the home of the party involved where he was discovered at his home.
7. There was no damage to the vehicle with the plate number that had been called in. There was no evidence to support a reckless driving claim.
8. Most reputable law enforcement officers will tell you that the incident ends there! In order to charge someone or make an arrest, the suspect must be driving the vehicle or have it under their control. Thus the incident was closed, just like it would be with any other citizen.
9. At no time was the dispatcher asked to change the report.
10. At no time was the 911 call changed or altered.
11. At no time was the supervisor asked to alter or bury the report.
 
You now have all the facts of what happened that night. I am not a professional politician, but simply a law enforcement professional running for sheriff. I will continue to present my credentials to the voting public and not resort to false accusations."
 
Nick Petitgout
 
Petitgout faces Justin Lundgren and Bryan Baca in the March 20 primary for McDonough County Sheriff.