A Springfield woman who says she was groped by a Southern View police officer in a patrol car last spring has sued the village, saying that Joseph Zeid Langan, who has since left the force, had no business wearing a badge.
“I was scared that he would hurt me or even kill me and get away with it because he’s a cop,” said Tonya King, whose encounter with Langan prompted criminal charges that remain pending.
King isn’t the first to accuse Langan of inappropriate sexual conduct while on duty. In 2008, a prostitute said that Langan, then a Springfield police officer, pressured her into performing a sex act in Lincoln Park. Langan resigned after the woman led investigators to a used condom. No criminal charges were filed, but the woman sued Langan and the city.
Langan got a job as a Southern View officer in February of last year, after his resignation from the Springfield force and the circumstances behind it had been reported by the State Journal-Register. The encounter with King occurred less than a month after Langan began patrolling Southern View. The Sangamon County state’s attorney’s office charged Langan with battery and official misconduct last spring based on King’s allegations that were bolstered by a roommate, who was driving a car that Langan stopped.
Southern View wasn’t the only public agency that gave Langan a job after he left the Springfield force. The University of Illinois Springfield hired Langan as a police dispatcher at an annual salary of $22,068 in 2009, one year after his forced resignation from the Springfield force made headlines. While Langan is no longer working for Southern View, he is still collecting full pay from UIS, which placed him on administrative leave in May of last year, after he was charged with official misconduct and battery following an investigation into King’s allegations.
Derek Schnapp, UIS spokesman, declined to answer questions about why Langan remains on the public payroll despite pending felony charges. The criminal case against the former officer has been continued several times at the request of the defense.
According to King’s lawsuit and charging papers in the criminal case, Langan stopped a car that King was riding in to investigate an accusation that she had harassed someone by telephone. King says that Langan told her to sit in the front seat of his squad car with him while her roommate waited in the car that the officer had pulled over. When he learned that she worked as an exotic dancer, Langan began making crude sexual remarks, lewdly suggesting forms of sex that would not put her at risk for pregnancy, King says.
“Once I told him where I worked, he took full advantage of me, and I’m not that kind of girl,” King said during an interview in the office of her lawyer, Daniel Noll. “I leave my work at work. I’m a normal girl.”
Eventually, Langan told King’s roommate to go home and that he would bring King there shortly. Langan took a circuitous route to the residence, according to the lawsuit, reaching over several times to fondle his passenger against her will while she pulled away and told him to stop.
“It’s sad to say, but I was thinking, just hurry up and do what you’re going to do,” King recalled during an interview punctuated by tears. “It felt like forever. I just kept begging him to take me home.”
King said that she called 911 and is now suing because she wants to deter similar behavior in the future. She said she thought of her two daughters while she sat, terrified, in Langan’s squad car, and she doesn’t want them to ever be in the same position. She said that she and her father attended Langan’s first court proceeding in the criminal case to send a message to the accused.
“I told my mom and dad I wanted to be brave and show him that he didn’t scare me,” King said. “My parents are really behind me on this.”
Southern View officials knew or should have known that Langan resigned from the Springfield force after he was accused of having sex with a prostitute while on duty, Noll said.
“This is a well-known occurrence in 2008 in the law-enforcement community,” Noll said. “I think it’s outrageous that a person who has this background of behavior is given a gun and a car and a badge to go out and do it again.
James Foster, a village trustee who oversees the police department, says that former police chief Kurt Taraba, who no longer works for the village, was in charge of background checks and hiring.
“Supposedly, this guy (Langan) was supposed to be on the straight-and-narrow,” Foster said. “The chief just did the wrong thing and it came back to burn us.”
Contact Bruce Rushton at firstname.lastname@example.org.