We sat down with Jaylan Butler, a rising junior on the Eastern Illinois swim team who had his life threatened by a group of white policemen at a rest stop in the highway coming home from Conference championships in 2019.
We started the conversation with how Jaylan got into swimming and ended up at EIU. Jaylan was a latecomer to swimming, starting competitively when he was 14, and attributed his coaches as the reason he stuck with it and continued his career onto college. Freshman year was a big transition for him, but he ended the season on a high note at the Summit League Championships, registering best times in multiple events. However, on the way home from the meet is when the police mistook him for a suspect. Per the ACLU:
In February of 2019, his team was on a bus returning home from the Summit League Championships. When the bus stopped at a rest stop in Illinois, police mistook Jaylan for a suspect they were pursuing and handcuffed him face-down in the snow with a knee in his back and guns pointed at his head. One officer threatened to shoot him. When police realized they had the wrong suspect, instead of letting Jaylan free, they kept him handcuffed, searched his pockets, and told him they were arresting him for resisting arrest. Police only released Jaylan when he could provide photo ID.
** Though the police refused to give their names, the ACLU has tracked down four of the six officers involved and filed a lawsuit for false arrest and excessive force. SwimSwam has filed Freedom of Information Act requests for more information about the officers and any prior complaints against them. **
Jaylan told us his initial reaction to the situation, as well as how he tried to process and recover from it over the course of the next year. He said his sophomore season was great in terms of training in the water, but his racing did not translate that at all. It wasn't until the 2020 conference championships where he realized this incident was having a negative effect on his performances.
We finished our conversation with Jaylan's advice on how to make sure we are creating a safe and welcoming environment for people of color, whether that's in the pool or outside of it.
Music: Otis McDonald www.otismacmusic.com