ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) ─ Former Rock House Officer Eric Thurmond, known to many for dancing with kids at block parties and attending community events, now faces serious charges.
Thurmond was charged with Criminal Sexual Assault. He was taken into custody in Arizona Thursday evening, where he had been traveling for personal reasons, according to police.
The sexual assault charges come after an alleged incident May 23rd.
“An adult female notified deputies that she was the victim of a sexual assault that occurred near Hill Street and North Second street,” said Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea. “The suspect in the case was identified as 26-year old Rockford Police Patrol Officer Eric Thurmond.”
According to the criminal complaint, Thurmond forced himself upon the victim without her consent.
The three year veteran of the force was off duty at the time.
Officer Thurmond, 26, was place on administrative leave on May 24th.
Wednesday, sexual assault charges were announced against another Rockford Police officer, 51-year old Daniel Basile, a 19-year veteran of the force.
“It is very frustrating to be up here another day discussing criminal allegations involving another Rockford police officer,” said Chief O’Shea. “Our officers go out and work hard each and every day and protect this city and work with the community to drive down crime.”
Winnebago County State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross credits the victim’s bravery.
“It is difficult and traumatic for victims of sexual assault to come forward,” said Hite Ross. “The community has a stigma on those types of individuals who have been victims of crime. But again, I would like to reiterate sexual assault is a crime of violence.”
Officer Thurmond was also moved out of his role as Resident Officer Community Keeper (ROCK) House Officer in September.
Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara expressed his thoughts in a statement, saying, “I’m outraged. This is the second straight day where charges have been filed against a Rockford Police Officer for criminal sexual assault. Today, Winnebago County State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite-Ross announced charges against Officer Eric Thurmond. These are serious allegations and illustrate that our law enforcement members must be held to the same standard as all of us.”
The ROCK House program, started in 2017, placed officers in homes within the neighborhoods they patrol. Thurmond lived rent and utility free in a ROCK house at 1007 15th Street. The program was sponsored by the Winnebago County Housing Authority.
Many neighbors spoke to Eyewitness News off camera. They say they are devastated to hear the charge against Thurmond. Rockford resident Toni Johnson says even if he is ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing, she wouldn’t want him to move back into the ROCK House.
“I don’t think I would have the same feeling. I really don’t,” said Johnson. “It’s just something that pushes you away to know that maybe he did, maybe he didn’t, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable around him.”
Rockford Police say it plans on moving a new officer into the ROCK House in the near future.
Thurmond became well known for appearing at block parties, neighborhood events, and job fairs, and interacting with neighborhood children. He gained national attention when the city’s ROCK House program was covered by the Wall Street Journal, and was featured on Freethink’s “Cops Living in Dangerous Areas” profile.
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