EAST DUBUQUE, Ill. — East Dubuque officials have released an incident report providing details of a July 11 fight in which the city’s mayor is accused of tackling a person, striking him repeatedly and running away.
East Dubuque City Manager Loras Herrig released the police report to the Telegraph Herald this week, stating that the city’s investigation into the incident has concluded. This follows multiple requests to obtain the report through Freedom of Information Act requests, all of which were denied.
At a July 15 East Dubuque City Council meeting, Mayor Kirk VanOstrand admitted his involvement in a fight that occurred July 11 at a Sinsinawa Avenue bar. The altercation involved a man identified as Scott Montgomery.
Prior to VanOstrand’s announcement, Montgomery spoke publicly at the meeting to take responsibility for the incident, saying he incited the fight by grabbing VanOstrand inappropriately.
Montgomery stated that after he grabbed VanOstrand, the mayor proceeded to follow him outside and threw him on the ground.
“Kirk had (thrown me) on the ground and just commenced to yell at me for what I had done at the bar, and that was it,” Montgomery said.
However, the police report — as well as an account from Montgomery’s wife, who says she witnessed the event — suggests that there was more to the skirmish.
East Dubuque Police Officer David Kale interviewed Montgomery on July 11. Montgomery told police that at about 9:30 p.m., he was outside The Other Side on Sinsinawa Avenue when VanOstrand “came running across the street and tackled him to the ground and struck him several times.”
The officer notes in the report that Montgomery’s knees were “skinned up” and “bleeding a little.” It does not mention any other injuries.
Montgomery told police at the time that he did not know the reason VanOstrand attacked him, but said the two were friends.
When asked if Montgomery and VanOstrand had any recent misunderstandings or bad messages between each other, Montgomery said they had not.
Montgomery’s wife, Linda Montgomery, who was also interviewed by police, allegedly stated she did not see the incident, but she did see VanOstrand “run away and leave the area.”
When Scott Montgomery was asked if he wanted to press charges against VanOstrand, he responded by saying, “Let’s bring Kirk back down here right now.”
“I told Scott that with how intoxicated he was, and not knowing any more details as to the reason this happened, that it wasn’t a good idea,” Kale wrote in the report. “Scott then decided he did not want to press charges against his friend, and they could talk about it another time.”
Attempts to reach Kale for comment were unsuccessful. Scott Montgomery did not respond to messages seeking comment for this story.
The mayor’s recollection
Speaking with the Telegraph Herald on Friday, VanOstrand said he had left the bar after he was grabbed and got into his car across the street. He then saw Montgomery walk outside and decided to approach him.
VanOstrand insisted that he only threw Montgomery to the ground and did not strike him, as alleged in the report. He claimed Montgomery said he was “struck” possibly because VanOstrand pushed Montgomery a few times after he threw him to the ground.
“I never did strike him,” VanOstrand said. “I just pushed him. I don’t know where he came up with that.”
VanOstrand said he left the scene because he believed the incident was resolved and didn’t believe the police would be called.
“I made my point to Scott,” VanOstrand said. “I didn’t think nothing else was going to come of it.”
When asked why the incident report was withheld for three months, Herrig said city officials had been reaching out to surrounding law enforcement agencies to see if they would conduct an independent investigation. He said he wanted to avoid a conflict of interest with city police investigating an elected official in the community.
“We did contact numerous local law enforcement agencies, county law enforcement and state law enforcement,” Herrig said. “They have all declined to investigate the matter further.”
Herrig said the agencies told him it was not worth investigating because Montgomery did not want to press charges.
“They think it’s a waste of time,” Herrig said. “There is no victim, no crime.”
Herrig said the city then moved to close the investigation without any further investigating by East Dubuque police.
Herrig said he was “not at liberty to say” which specific agencies he reached out to.
Officials with the Galena, Elizabeth and Dubuque police departments said they were not contacted about conducting an outside investigation involving the mayor.
Jo Daviess County Sheriff Kevin Turner said he was asked on Sept. 16 to investigate the July 11 incident, but he declined.
Asked by the Telegraph Herald, Herrig declined to say why the Galena Police Department was not asked to investigate.
Witnesses to the event
When contacted on Friday, Linda Montgomery said she did, in fact, witness a portion of the fight that occurred between her husband and VanOstrand.
Linda Montgomery said she was walking outside to smoke a cigarette when she found her husband lying on the street next to knocked-over garbage cans.
She said she then heard her husband yell, “What’s your problem, Kirk?”
VanOstrand, who was across the street, then said, “I’ll tell you what my (expletive) problem is, Scott,” according to Linda Montgomery.
Linda Montgomery said VanOstrand then ran across the street, pushed Scott Montgomery back onto the ground and “kicked the (expletive) out of him.”
She said VanOstrand then got back into his car and drove away. The next day, the mayor came to her house to apologize.
Linda Montgomery said VanOstrand told her that Scott Montgomery had grabbed him inappropriately. Linda Montgomery noted that both VanOstrand and Montgomery had been drinking that night.
Linda Montgomery’s statements contradict an account she reportedly made to police. In the incident report, Linda Montgomery is reported saying “she did not really see the attack.”
Linda Montgomery said she told police she saw VanOstrand kick her husband, and she did not know why it was not included in the police report.
VanOstrand denied Linda Montgomery’s statements. He said she did not walk out of the bar until after the incident had concluded.
“She didn’t see anything,” VanOstrand said. “By the time Linda came out, I was already getting in my car.”