Gary Caruana

Some Health Officials Find Their Hands Tied On COVID-19 Restrictions

Oct 30, 2020
Connie Kuntz

Sandra Martell is in a tough spot. As public health administrator in northern Illinois’ Winnebago County, Martell was threatened with lawsuits from several area bar owners after she included them on a list of businesses allegedly defying the governor’s orders to halt indoor dining.

The county is part of a region that faced tougher restrictions this month after the rate of positive COVID-19 tests rose above 8%.

Winnebago County jail

Winnebago County Board Chairman Frank Haney reached an agreement with Sheriff Gary Caruana to hire 10 additional corrections officers at the county jail.

The agreement comes as more than 60 complaints have been filed over allegedly excessive and prolonged prisoner lockdowns resulting from staff cuts Caruana made when his department budget was slashed by $4.3 million this fiscal year.


Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Jordan D. Spates, the Rockford man wanted in connection with the Sept. 23 shooting of a Winnebago County Sheriff’s Deputy, has been arrested in Georgia. More arrests may be coming.

Spates, 27, is wanted for aggravated battery to a police officer with a firearm, which is a class X felony with a penalty of six to 30 years in prison.

The Winnebago County Sheriff's Department developed information late last week that the fugitive was in the Atlanta suburb of Lawrenceville, Ga. They worked with the Rockford FBI office, which obtained a warrant for Spates's arrest.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Police are still looking for a man accused of shooting a Winnebago County sheriff's deputy last weekend.

Deputy Stephen Wright was shot in the back and shoulder early Saturday morning during a traffic stop near southwest Rockford. Detectives identified 27-year-old Jordan Spates of Rockford as a suspect. They conducted a massive manhunt much of Saturday in wooded areas near the site of the shooting, including Klehm Arboretum.

Two Winnebago County sheriff’s deputies were ordered to stop handing out unofficial business cards featuring a skull logo that a black woman considered racist.  

The deputies gave Rockford resident Laverne Huggins the card, which features a skull logo on both sides, on December 1, 2015, when they asked her about a relative who may have been involved in a crime.

Huggins was charged with resisting arrest and obstruction of justice because deputies claimed she lied about her connection to their suspect.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Winnebago County’s Sheriff dropped the idea Thursday of allowing the federal government to house immigration detainees in his jail. Gary Caruana said Immigration and Customs Enforcement was not able to agree to his terms.

In exchange for committing a portion of the jail to the federal prisoners, guarding them, and caring for them, ICE would have paid the county a daily per-prisoner fee; $80 was one figure mentioned frequently during discussions. 



Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Rockford has seen a string of shootings, including seven murders, over the past month. That prompted city officials to demonstrate what they are doing about violent crime.