A veteran of the U.S. Navy, who has organized a Memorial Day weekend horseshoe tournament at the village park for 20 years, was arrested for damaging public property just prior to the start of competition Saturday.
Dave Shreve, 73, said he used bolt cutters to remove a padlock to a switch that controls outdoor municipal lighting.
Shreve said Cahokia Mayor Curtis McCall Jr., had ordered him to turn in a lighting padlock key he has held for years, so last week, he went to Village Hall to speak with Parks Director Trevon Tompkin. Shreve said Tompkin assured him that an official would be at the park about 4 p.m. Saturday to unlock the lighting, but no one arrived by nearly 6 p.m. when the event was scheduled to start.
“I had to get the tournament going and I couldn’t reach anyone about the lights, so I cut the lock. I intended to buy another one to replace it. It probably cost no more than $3,” Shreve said.
About 30 minutes later, Tompkin showed up and asked, “How’d you get the lights on?” according to Shreve.
“I told him I cut the lock and would pay for another but he said, ‘This is the last tournament you’ll ever direct,’ and left,” Shreve said.
According to a police report, a Cahokia police officer responded to the park a few minutes later. Shreve was placed in handcuffs and put in the back of a squad car.
“‘You’re arresting me?’ I said, and he told me, ‘It’s the mayor’s call,’” Shreve said.
Neither McCall Jr., or Tompkins could be reached for comment Sunday despite repeated efforts. Police Chief Larry Purcell said he had been off duty and was unaware of Shreve’s arrest.
Shortly after his arrest, persons competing in the horseshoe tourney raised $120 and gave it to Shreve’s son, who took it to the police station to bail out his father, said Ann McNelly of Millstadt, one of the event’s organizers.
“I understand it was the mayor’s call to have him arrested but he should never had done that,” McNelly said. “It was just a lock and he said he’d pay for it. It was ridiculous.”
The bail money was not needed and Shreve was released on his own recognizance after being issued a ticket that stated he, “knowingly damaged the property of the Village of Cahokia, being a padlock on the electrical box at the Cahokia Park, by cutting it off the box.” The damage was estimated at “less than $300.”
Shreve was directed to appear in court on July 7.
Shreve, who served in the Navy from 1960 to 1963, is retired from American Airlines where he was as a jetliner mechanic. Except for a traffic violation, he had never been arrested before, he said.
Jerry Nichols, a member of the village board, said he believes Shreve’s arrest was “political” and is part of an ongoing conflict between members of the McCall political team and others in village government.
“That this should happen to one of our veteran’s at Memorial Day over a lock that costs a few dollars is terrible. It’s disrespect to all veterans,” Nichols said.
Nichols, who has been a persistent critic of McCall Jr., was ordered to be removed by police from a City Council meeting in October after he raised questions about hiring practices.
While members of the public who attended the session and videotaped Nichols’ being led away by police criticized his removal, board member Phyllis Pearson supported it on the grounds that McCall Jr., was trying to restore decorum to the sometimes raucous meetings.
In January, the state attorney general’s office issued a ruling that the village board violated the Illinois Open Meetings Act by, “prohibiting a member of the public from addressing the board.” This was in reference to a challenge to a village ordinance pushed by McCall Jr., requiring members of the public who desired to make public statements to fill out a form in advance, which the attorney general’s ruling stated was not allowed under the act.