GALESBURG — Sandy Halsne wants to know what happened to her son, Tyler Smith, the night he died this past September.
The Rochelle resident filed a formal complaint against the Galesburg Police Department, claiming they did not thoroughly investigate the circumstances of Smith’s death this past September, and also alleged possible discrimination.
Halsne took her story to Galesburg’s Community Relations Commission (CRC) Thursday evening.
“A week ago Friday I filed a formal complaint with the Galesburg Police Department and I was then directed to file that with the CRC,” Halsne said in a phone interview on Friday. “I don’t think Tyler’s investigation was taken seriously from day one.”
According to what Halsne was told, the CRC cannot investigate complaints against the city; therefore, she was directed to file at the state level. But the committee did give her the opportunity to share her story.
Halsne doesn’t believe enough was done during the investigation, and pointed out in her complaint she feels her family was not treated very well by the Galesburg Police Department.
“Tyler L. Smith may have been just another deceased young black male in the eyes of the Galesburg Police Department, but Tyler is a human being who has a mother and a father who love him very much,” Halsne said to the CRC Thursday evening, as she choked back tears sitting next to Smith’s father, Keith Smith. “In less than 24 hours it went from a homicide investigation to a drowning. There was no reason why or how he got where he was.”
Smith, a 2014 graduate of Rochelle Township High School and a 2018 graduate of Western Illinois University with a criminal justice degree, had just moved to California after being accepted into the California Police Academy.
He arrived in Galesburg on Friday, Sept. 14 and was planning to stay overnight with a friend before attending a National Guard drill in Macomb on Saturday. Smith reportedly went out for dinner and drinks Friday night, got separated from his friends and never returned. He was found dead Saturday night in an area called Cedar Fork, a steep 20-foot cement storm drainage canal. An autopsy determined Smith’s cause of death was drowning, but Halsne said there are too many unanswered questions as to what exactly happened to Tyler, and why.
One by one, Halsne told the CRC several accounts she claimed transpired between her and the investigators.
“Did investigators see a mixed race young man from California and make a decision not to investigate? Did they see interracial parents and make a conscious decision to dedicate their time to other things?” Halsne asked the committee.
On Friday, Halsne said her next step is to gather more information on how to file a complaint at the state level.
“Our main concern is what happened to Tyler that night. Our main focus is Tyler, we don’t want to take attention from that,” she added. “It is important for them to know how our treatment was that night and how the marbles dropped. We don’t feel he got a fair investigation.”
The Galesburg Police Department confirmed a complaint has been filed, but declined to comment further on the matter.
“Yes, a complaint has been filed and an investigation is being conducted,” said David Christensen, Galesburg chief of police.
Halsne said a meeting with the city manager, police chief and attorney is scheduled for next Tuesday.
“It’s your worst nightmare with a nightmare on top of it,” she added.