By Jim Hagerty
ROCKFORD – Felony charges against a local 22-year-old have been dismissed, and an officer with the Rockford Police Department has been charged with battery.
William Patrick Gettings, was pulled over for failure to use a turn signal Saturday night near Turner Street and Dawn Avenue, a stop that was partially captured on video and posted to Gettings’ Facebook page.
“I am being stopped for failure to use a turn signal–apparently twice,” Gettings says, laughingly. “I didn’t know it was illegal to not use a turn signal.”
Gettings was later charged with two counts of aggravated battery to a police officer, attempting to disarm a police officer, and resisting arrest. According the corresponding criminal complaint, the charges came after Gettings exited his vehicle as officer Frank Fabiani was examining his driver’s license and registration and later became combative.
Police also alleged that Gettings spat on Fabiani as a struggle ensued. Police further claimed that Gettings yelled, “I’m grabbing your gun,” and attempted to disarm an officer.
Dash cam footage showed something else, officials said at a Monday press conference.
“Upon review of video footage that was captured, all charges against Gettings have been dismissed,” Winnebago County State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross said.
Subsequently, misdemeanor battery charges have been filed against Fabiani, Hite Ross added.
Hite Ross said it would not be ethical to release the video footage to the public.
Monday’s press conference comes on the heels of two protests outside the Winnebago County Jail. About 40 demonstrators gathered in front of the facility Sunday and Monday, holding signs bearing Gettings’ mugshot and chanting, “Free Sage,” his nickname among those he’s joined in recent marches against police brutality.
Those who know Gettings and questioned the charges against him. They say he’s not one to engage in violence and wouldn’t fight police during a traffic stop.
“Patrick is literally the nicest dude ever,” one demonstrator said. “He’s the most spiritual and religious out of all of us. There’s no way the allegations against him are true. He’s usually super calm. He’s very nice. Aggravated assault of a police officer? There’s no way.”
Police Chief Dan O’Shea said while he is satisfied with the training his rank-and-file receive, there is always room for improvement to prevent future incidents of excessive force.
“Rockford Police officers receive top-shelf training from our training division,” the chief said. “They go through it every year. Whether we see it, or the outside sees it, we are always open to seek what’s best–what’s best for the officers and what’s best for the community. ”
O’Shea also said the decisions to drop charges against Gettings and charge Fabiani were not the result of public pressure.
“We will hold ourselves accountable, whether there’s protesters or no protesters,” he said. “It’s not just Rockford. It’s happening across the country. And in this particular incident, like several other incidents over the last couple years, we will hold ourselves accountable. And whenever appropriate the state’s attorney’s office will render charges. As far as this having to do with protesters, (the charges) are individualistic to this traffic stop, to this incident, not relative to anything else.”
Fabiani has been with the Rockford Police Department for less than two years. He’s currently on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the criminal case.