The family of a teen who jumped to his death from a parking deck near Chicago earlier this year has filed a lawsuit against the school district.
Corey Walgren was a student at Naperville North High School when he committed suicide in January. He jumped off the parking deck after being questioned about pornographic images on his phone.
According to his family’s attorney, who brought the suit against Naperville School District 203, Walgren was illegally interrogated when he was told by a police officer he could be charged with sex crimes.
Although police had reports that he played the video of a consensual sex act for friends, no pornographic images were found on Corey’s phone. Police say they recovered audio of what may have been a sexual encounter but did not intend to press charges.
“(They said) he could be charged with child pornography and he could be a registered sex offender,” attorney Terry Ekl told reporters Wednesday. “If you look at the whole scenario of what they did and how they handled it and the outcome, they did a lot wrong.”
The complaint says that Walgren was exposed to harsh interrogation. Neither an attorney nor Corey’s parents were present during questioning, and the officer never read the 16-year-old his Miranda rights.
Corey was left to wait for his mother after being questioned. Instead, he walked out of the building to a downtown Naperville parking garage and committed suicide.
School and city officials responded to the complaint and are standing by the procedure that the liaison officer followed.
“We ask the community to show patience and respect throughout the legal process. We are confident the school resource officer followed proper policies and procedures,” Naperville City Attorney Mike DiSanto said in a statement.
Friends described Walgren as an aspiring student and hockey player who showed interest in attending the University of Minnesota. He was on the honor roll and worked part-time at a local restaurant.
The night before he died, Corey was not acting out of the ordinary, his mother,
Maureen Walgren, told the Chicago Tribune. There was nothing to be alarmed about, and Corey seemed normal. However, that would all change the next day.
Police say on January 11, a female student told the Naperville North dean of students that Corey recorded a sexual encounter they had last year and may have shared it. That’s when Officer Brett Heun became involved. Heun said he discovered a video file with no images, only sound.
According to Heun, Corey was cooperative during the search and did not appear distraught.
However, Ekl said the search was illegal, according to state law. In Illinois, police are required to notify a parent or guardian before a juvenile is taken into custody.
The Illinois Council of School Attorneys’ guidelines also stated that school resource officers can interview students without parental permission if it’s a school-related incident or poses safety concerns for students or employees.
“I think they wanted to scare him straight,” Maureen Walgren said. “Instead, they scared him to death.”
In a redacted police reported obtained by the Tribune under the Freedom of Information Act, the Naperville Police Department claims Heun properly investigated the allegations that Corey Walgren shared sexual material without the female classmate’s wishes, which is a felony in Illinois under the state’s “Revenge Porn” law.
Police say the school dean spoke to Corey alone, then attempted to contact Maureen and her husband, Doug Walgren. They eventually reached Maureen, a nurse. The call was placed on speakerphone with Corey in the room.
It was during that call Heun said Corey could be charged and end up on a sex offender registry, Maureen claims.
Heun said he told Maureen that the matter could be resolved with an out-of-court alternative form of punishment, an Illinois-sanctioned measure called a “station adjustment,” where juveniles are ordered to complete community service, write an essay, or undergo counseling. Heun said Maureen agreed to handle the matter by way of a station adjustment if necessary.
Heun also said the speakerphone conversation took place before he downloaded files from Corey’s phone and that he asked for Maureen’s consent. Maureen told officials she would be at the school in an hour. Corey was told to wait for her.
When Maureen arrived, Corey, who had no history of mental illness, was not in the building. About an hour later, a police officer spotted someone sitting on the ledge of a five-story parking garage.
Keeping his eye on the person, the officer position himself near the building in case the subject was dangerous. When the officer looked away, Corey leaped 53 feet to the pavement while his mother was blocks away searching for him.
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