POLITICS

An Illinois mayor had cops crack down on social gatherings. His wife was among the violators.

An Illinois mayor had cops crack down on social gatherings. His wife was among the violators.

The mayor of a southern Illinois city said his wife was among a group of people who violated the state’s stay-at-home order to hang out at a local bar.

On Sunday morning, police in Alton, near the Missouri border, broke up a gathering at Hiram’s Tavern that was “clearly disregarding the executive order and public pleas for compliance,” the department said in a press release.

Police did not say how many people were at the bar and did not name any of the violators. But Mayor Brant Walker said in a Facebook post on Monday that his wife, Shannon Walker, was among those who got in trouble.

“I was made aware that my wife was in attendance at this prohibited social gathering. I instructed the Police Chief to treat her as he would any citizen violating the ‘Stay At Home’ order and to ensure that she received no special treatment,” the mayor wrote in his post, saying he was embarrassed by the incident.

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Mayor Brant Walker speaks at Liberty Bank Alton Amphitheater in Alton, Ill., on April 29, 2014.John Badman / The Telegraph via AP file

“My wife is an adult capable of making her own decisions, and in this instance she exhibited a stunning lack of judgment,” he said. “She now faces the same consequences for her ill-advised decision as the other individuals who chose to violate the ‘Stay at Home’ order.”

Walker said he told police on Friday to begin more strictly enforcing the governor’s order after he received reports that people in Madison County were continuing to gather. The mayor apologized to the residents for his wife’s actions.

“My first and most important priority is the safety and well-being of the citizens of Alton. We are in the midst of a national public health crisis, and I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure that your health is protected, including enforcing the Governor’s statewide ‘Stay At Home’ order,” Walker said.

Police said their department had received several complaints that Hiram’s Tavern was continuing to operate on the weekends. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker issued a stay-at-home order on March 20 and said all nonessential businesses must cease.

Officers previously conducted an investigation into the bar but found no unauthorized activity. On Sunday, a group of people had gathered inside the bar “in an area outside public view,” the department said.

Officers issued criminal complaints for misdemeanor reckless conduct. Each person at the bar on Sunday will be summoned to court at a later date, police said. Two of the individuals, including owner Hiram Lewis, had warrants.

Lewis, who had an arrest warrant stemming from a domestic battery incident, was arrested and taken to the local jail.

“If members of our community will not protect each other, and will be so brazen as to gather in public places, we will be forced to take action like we did this weekend without hesitation,” the police chief, Jason Simmons, said in a statement.

There are more than 12,200 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Illinois, according to the state’s Department of Public Health. Madison County has 52 cases.

Image: Minyvonne BurkeMinyvonne Burke

Minyvonne Burke is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.

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