Esker case closed without charges

Edwin “Beanie” Esker

A lengthy investigation into the officer-involved shooting death of 53-year-old Edwin “Beanie” Esker during a domestic dispute near Maeystown the evening of July 5 has concluded without charges filed.

Police said an intoxicated and “wide-eyed, teeth-clenched” Esker approached an arriving Monroe County Sheriff’s Department deputy with a running chainsaw and continued to advance despite repeated verbal commands to stop, after which the deputy fatally shot Esker three times.

“I have fully reviewed the thorough investigation performed by the Illinois State Police and have concluded that the use of deadly force… was fully lawful, reasonable and justified,” Monroe County State’s Attorney Chris Hitzemann stated in a Jan. 26 email to parties involved in the investigation that was obtained by the Republic-Times through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The name of the deputy was redacted from FOIA documents due to being classified as a victim in this case, Monroe County FOIA officer Mike Origliosso told the Republic-Times.

Hitzemann cited Chapter 720, Act 5, Section 7-5 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes, which governs use of force by a police officer, emphasizing the sentence that states an officer is “justified in using force likely to cause death or great bodily harm only when he reasonably believes force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or such other person.”

Shortly before 8 p.m. July 5, police were called to a domestic disturbance between Esker and his ex-wife, who lived in separate residences on the same property at 1522 Mill Street just outside of Maeystown. 

The ex-wife and her daughter lived inside a home while Esker resided in a camper parked in a wooded area toward the rear of the property. The couple had divorced in 2013, and the ex-wife said she had allowed an order of protection against Esker to expire despite previous domestic troubles.

According to Hitzemann’s findings, the ex-wife indicated to an emergency dispatcher that Esker had unlawfully entered her home earlier on July 5 and was attempting to re-enter the home that evening. He was also very intoxicated and had threatened to kill her, she told the dispatcher.

The ex-wife then said Esker saw her talking on the phone and walked away from the house, only to re-emerge a short time later carrying a chainsaw. The ex-wife armed herself with a baseball bat inside the home, fearing for her life.

The ex-wife presumed Esker knew she was talking to police and speculated he intended to cut down a tree to prevent officers from accessing the property, Hitzemann’s report states.

The daughter, who was also inside the home at the time of the incident, told investigators during the investigation that her father drank every day and fought regularly with them. 

As the arriving deputy exited his vehicle at the scene, he heard the sound of a chainsaw running and was standing near the front bumper of his vehicle when Esker came into view.

“(The deputy) observed Edwin to be holding a chainsaw at approximately mid-torso level with the throttle fully engaged,” Hitzemann’s report states. 

When Esker got to as close as 15 feet from the deputy, the officer fired three rounds at Esker, who then fell to the ground.

“(The deputy) believed that Edwin intended to assault him with the chainsaw,” Hitzemann’s report states.

An assisting deputy who responded to the scene offered a report consistent to what the officer who shot Esker told investigators, Hitzemann said. 

Esker’s autopsy confirmed he was intoxicated on the night of the incident, the report states.  His blood indicated an ethanol intoxication of .183 and vitreous fluids indicated an intoxication of .230.

The FOIA documents also contained interviews with all parties involved in the incident as well as neighbors and all responding emergency officials, plus reports, photos, and other evidence collected at the scene.

“Interviews with family indicated that on the day of the incident Edwin was spotted with a bag of beers in the morning,” Hitzemann writes in the report.

Evidence collected at the scene leads to “the inference that Edwin intended to follow through on his threats,” Hitzemann added.

The ex-wife’s spark plugs had been removed from her car after she arrived home that night, according to the report, and Esker had recently purchased a .40 caliber handgun.

“I find (the deputy’s) use of deadly force justified here. For all the foregoing reasons, I find that Edwin Esker’s actions of approaching and closing on (the deputy) with a running and engaged chainsaw, while displaying facial cues to indicate aggression, and ultimately failing to heed (the deputy’s) warning to stop meets that standard,” Hitzemann concluded in his findings.

The deputy has since been reinstated for duty after having being placed on administrative leave immediately following the incident.

“There is no doubt the quick actions of (the responding deputies) saved multiple lives,” Monroe County Sheriff Neal Rohlfing stated in a document referring to the incident.

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