A Douglas County judge has ordered a suburban Chicago man who faces charges of child abuse and aggravated child endangerment in Lawrence to take a blood test so that three police officers who helped apprehend him could be inoculated if needed.
Adolfo Gomez Jr., 52, and Deborah M. Gomez, 43, of Northlake, Ill., were arrested last Wednesday in the parking lot of Walmart in west Lawrence after two of their children, ages 5 and 7, were found bound and blindfolded near the family’s vehicle. Lawrence police said Adolfo Gomez initially resisted officers, so they used a Taser to take him into custody.
Chad Sublet, an assistant city attorney, said three officers were exposed to Gomez’s blood during the incident so the city asked District Judge Paula Martin to order Gomez to submit to a blood test under the state’s infectious disease testing statute. The law is aimed at protecting law enforcement, corrections officers and emergency services workers. Gomez earlier had refused to submit to the test.
“We just want to know what cautions the officers need to take,” Sublet said.
Sublet said during the hearing that if Gomez tested positive for Hepatitis B, the officers would need to be inoculated by Tuesday afternoon. Three police officers and two detectives observed the hearing.
Gomez said in court that he saw no reason for the blood test because he had told officers it was possible he had Hepatitis C and that it was impossible he was infected with Hepatitis B. Martin said that was irrelevant and that the officers have the right to know what precautions they need to take.
Sgt. Trent McKinley, a Lawrence police spokesman, said three officers were taken to the hospital per department protocol last Wednesday after Gomez’s arrest outside Walmart, 550 Congressional Drive. He said Gomez did bleed at the scene because prongs of the stun gun do slightly pierce the skin.
“They were checked for potential blood exposure,” McKinley said.
After Gomez said during Tuesday’s hearing that he wanted to represent himself in court, the judge ordered that he undergo an evaluation by a Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center worker.
Gomez criticized his appointed defense attorney, Elbridge Griffy, because he said Griffy used curse words during their initial meeting.
“I don’t feel that I want counsel to represent me based on religious beliefs,” Gomez said.
Griffy said he might have been overzealous in his initial comments to Gomez.
“That wasn’t my intention,” he said.
Griffy said that during the conversation he expressed his own dissatisfaction with the state sentencing guidelines, although he said he refrained from cursing after Gomez became upset.
“You obviously got off on the wrong foot with one another for whatever reason,” Martin said.
Instead of agreeing to have Martin appoint a new attorney, Gomez said he preferred to represent himself in the case.
“I believe I’m competent enough to do that,” he told the judge.
Martin instead delayed the hearing on the attorney issue until next Tuesday because she said she wanted a third party to find that Gomez understood the nature of the charges he faces.
Adolfo and Deborah Gomez are charged with two counts of child abuse each after the two children were found with their hands and feet bound. They also face five charges each of aggravated child endangerment against the two children found bound and their three older children who were in the vehicle, ages 12, 13 and 15. Adolfo Gomez also faces a count of felony obstruction because he’s accused of resisting officers.
Police said the family was traveling from Illinois to Arizona when their Chevrolet Suburban broke down on Interstate 70 and had been in the Walmart parking lot for two days before the incident with police.
Police have said extended family members who saw nationwide media coverage of the event have contacted them about the children, who were taken into protective custody.
A judge conducted a custody hearing Monday, which was closed to the public, and District Attorney Charles Branson said his office does not comment on those hearings.
The parents remain in the Douglas County Jail in lieu of $50,000 bond each.