KANKAKEE — Members of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency donned hazmat suits Tuesday morning to search the interior of Jaffe Drugs in downtown Kankakee.
The crews were on scene conducting an investigation to “mitigate potential hazards” left behind after the drug store closed for business, according to the City of Kankakee.
The search was the latest step in the city’s legal battle to have the three-story structure at 217 E. Court St. condemned. The matter will be in court again Thursday with a hearing set before Kankakee County Circuit Judge Tom Cunnington.
The city first filed a motion for a preliminary injunction on Dec. 2, 2019 — which was granted by Judge Cunnington — arguing the building’s present condition constitutes a threat to the health and safety of the defendants and the public. The defendants are the owners of the building, which according to Kankakee County court records, are brothers Barry and Fred Jaffe.
Barry Jaffe was at the scene on Tuesday morning.
“I’m not sure what they are looking for in there,” he said while standing on the sidewalk near the store that has been in his family for more than 60 years.
Due to poor health, Barry, a one-time 6th Ward aldermanic candidate, and Fred Jaffe closed the store two to three years ago, Barry Jaffe said.
As part of the court injunction, the Jaffe brothers were ordered to make interior and exterior repairs to address the city’s concerns with the building.
Among the concerns was that in recent years, part of the brick façade as well as a third-story window fell to the sidewalk. No one was injured in the occurrences.
The building was to remain unoccupied until code violations were remedied.
In a Nov. 21, 2019, letter sent to the Jaffe brothers, Kankakee Fire Captain Mike Casagrande listed 10 code violations.
According to court documents, those included fire violations, a broken neon sign, a toilet valve stuck in the open position and water running, bird feces on the second and third floors, and excessive combustibles.
One notable violation is “excessive amounts of expired drugs are stored in the basement, many of these are from the early 1900s in glass bottles. An effort should be made to find proper disposal,” Casagrande’s letter said.
Citing a lack of progress on mitigation efforts, the city returned to court on June 12, 2020, seeking a permanent injunction. Judge Cunnington has not yet made a ruling in the matter.
Kankakee police and fire, as well as members of MABAS 7 Hazmat Unit, were at the scene Tuesday to support the Illinois EPA’s investigation, city officials said.
The hazmat suits worn by those entering the structure were a precaution, the city said.
“Per EPA routine protocol employees of the EPA are using PPE as a part of their initial investigation as they enter the building,” the City of Kankakee said in a post on its Facebook page.
The crews were called to the building around 9 a.m. and concluded their investigation at 11:30 a.m.
Jaffe’s attorney, Tony Brasel, was on scene Tuesday. A message was left with his office Tuesday afternoon.
There are four other businesses on the block. All four remained open as Illinois EPA conducted its investigation.
KANKAKEE — Among prosecutors and defense attorneys, it’s known as the “CSI effect.”
“Crime Scene Investigation (CSI)” was a cutting edge CBS television drama series more than a decade ago that depicted investigators proving a defendant’s guilty.
It crept into actual criminal trials.
“[Jurors] want to see the DNA and the fingerprints,” explained Marlow Jones, the chief of the criminal division for the Kankakee County State’s Attorney’s office.
“Now jurors want to see text messages, Facebook posts and voicemails. They are tech savvy.”
Last month, Jones took part in a weeklong training on digital forensics and how it can be used by prosecutors, law enforcement agencies and judges.
Paid for by the federal government, the training was conducted by the U.S. Secret Service and Homeland Security.
Jones said he learned that by the end of the 1990s, there were 50 million users of the internet.
That grew to 2 billion between 2000-2009. By 2010, there were 4.5 billion users.
This year, over 60 percent of the global population uses the internet. There are 9.6 billion active mobile device subscribers worldwide.
Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe said, “Technology has been part of the trial [process] for a while. Now there is so much cutting-edge technology that you have to be up on it.”
He said the digital forensics training program gives officers the tools they need to search for digital evidence. But it’s not just about finding evidence to prove someone’s guilt. The techniques can also help a defendant prove innocence.
Jones discussed a case where a defendant proved via his cell phone records that he was not in the area at the time a crime occurred.
“The information can also be used to exonerate someone,” Jones said. “Justice is doing the right thing.”
Rowe agreed, adding, “It is important to prove guilt or innocence.”
As for information to pull evidence from, Jones said there is a lot out there. Today, a cellphone is considered to be a part of a person’s anatomy and is used nearly constantly. That creates a lot of data. And, he said, there’s a right and a wrong way to search that data.
“You can’t just do a fishing expedition. You have to focus and it has to be relevant to the case,” Jones said. “If it is not relevant, don’t do it.”
During the training, an instructor reviewed a case involving a gun. While looking through the defendant’s photos on his phone, they found pictures of child pornography.
Jones said training participants learned that in such a case another warrant was needed before going any further.
Also, they learned that getting warrants shouldn’t result in a simple dump or download of all the data on a phone.
“You have to be specific. You want to check emails, messages, pictures,” he said. “This makes it more efficient for police. You don’t ask officers to dump the entire contents, that is too much information.”
Jones said the experience was eye-opening.
“What Marlow learned will help law enforcement in the county,” Rowe said. “This is a person who has knowledge of what to look for and how.”
After passionate pleas from both sides of the issue, the Kankakee County Board OK’d an ordinance rescinding an earlier resolution, and it will now allow cannabis businesses within unincorporated areas of the county.
The board voted 15-12 to rescind the earlier resolution at Tuesday’s board meeting at the county administration building. The board voted last year to prohibit the establishment of marijuana dispensaries within unincorporated areas of the county.
“On the state level, marijuana is legal for recreational use,” said board member Jacob Collins, who represents District 13 in Kankakee, before the vote was taken. “And if there’s one person that lives in your district, you have no right to tell them that they cannot open that type of business. These businesses cost millions of dollars to open and to operate, and nobody’s going to come to this area and propose spending millions of their own dollars to open one of these businesses if the demand is not there.”
But the measure had plenty of opposition from fellow board members, including Roger Hess, who also spoke against the issue in executive session in April.
“I had a family member commit suicide,” said Hess, of District 1 in rural Momence. “He started on marijuana. He went to heavy drugs. We feel like we want to tell our views, and our constituents. We want to approve this just because of the revenue, so be it, but I did not receive one negative call for my support to oppose this. Not one person. I figured, hearing from family members. That was not going to be good, but I will oppose this all the way.”
Board member Janis Peters, of District 8 in Manteno, sided with Hess and called marijuana a “gateway drug.”
“Young people are affected more by it long term than older people, so I just will vote no on this,” she said.
Robert Ellington Snipes, of District 18 in Kankakee, said he wasn’t in favor of cannabis businesses in unincorporated areas, but if those businesses were to locate in the incorporated areas, the county would still receive tax dollars. The county will receive just .25 percent of those sales as opposed to 3.75 percent on sales in the unincorporated areas.
“And we don’t have adequate police protection, and you can almost guarantee that there’s going to be some adverse conditions to come in that particular area,” Snipes said.
Others said they heard support from constituents for the legal pot sales.
“I spoke with many people in my district, and I got a resounding ‘yes,’ they would like to have a marijuana dispensary,” said board member Heather Bryan, who represents District 23 in Bourbonnais.
Kenneth Smith, who represents District 27 in Bourbonnais, said he spoke to his constituents the past couple weeks.
“I became aware of some disabled vets in my district who are using [marijuana] for PTSD,” he said. “While I only heard of a couple, I did not speak to everyone in my district. I spoke to different people, I hit a bunch of different areas. I got no negative feedback at all. Everyone was in favor of it, more so than when I had talked in weeks prior. I think we need to move forward on this.”
The next step is for the planning, zoning and agriculture committee to establish criteria for any possible sites for the marijuana dispensaries.
“Once that is put together we’re gonna look at what other areas have done to find suitable parameters for these types of establishments to be operating in,” board chairman Andy Wheeler said.
Board vice president Todd Sirois, who voted in favor, said there are still hurdles to clear.
“I want to remind the board that anywhere they site this place, if we even get one sited, doesn’t mean we’re going to get one sited,” he said. “Anywhere they site this, it has to go through PZA to be approved for siting. ... And there’s been stipulations put up on these places, where they can be, where they can’t be. And I’m sure if the sheriff knows where they’re at, he does a good job and will make sure that there’s patrolmen around it.”
KANKAKEE — A panel of Riverside Medical Group doctors responded to community COVID-19 vaccine questions presented by Dr. Keith Moss, Riverside’s vice president and chief medical officer, in an online forum Tuesday night.
Riverside CEO and president Phil Kambic opened the forum, then Moss asked prepared and audience-submitted questions for 40 minutes to six doctors from the pediatrics, internal medicine, interventional cardiology, obstetrics and family medicine fields.
Here are some of the questions panelists answered during the forum.
What effect can mRNA vaccines have on DNA?
“With the Pfizer and the Moderna, it actually doesn’t enter the nucleus of the cell where the DNA is housed, so it’s really not able to cause any effects on our DNA,” family medicine doctor N’Djamina Robinson said.
She added that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine (not an mRNA vaccine) enters the nucleus, but uses “oldie but goodie” vaccine technology that has been proven to be safe.
Will the vaccine be mandated?
“When something is under emergency use authorization, it’s very difficult to make it mandatory because of the legal implication of something under emergency use,” Moss said.
He expects employers and government entities will weigh the option as vaccine brands get FDA approval in the next six months.
Why should people get vaccinated if 99 percent of COVID patients recover?
“Well, 99 percent survive but that 1 percent that die could be saved,” Dr. Nadeem Ansari of internal medicine said.
In the U.S. alone, there have been over 500,000 deaths.
“Ask the people who have lost their relatives,” he said. “They would have loved to have saved them.”
Also, some who recover still develop chronic problems, according to the panel.
“It’s not a benign disease,” said Dr. Stonewall McCuiston of the internal medicine department. “Most people do well, but you will have those people with long-term complications.”
Why vaccinate kids?
The recent Pfizer study with over 2,200 children found it to be 100% effective with side effects comparable to those in young adults, Dr. Josefina Batista of pediatrics said. The FDA approved it for use in 12- to 15-year-olds Monday.
Healthy children can still contract COVID and develop long-term side effects or Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), Robinson said. Kids have been shown to spread the B117 variant more easily than the main strain, according to Moss.
Many kids are watched by grandparents and could pass COVID on to them or other adults they come in contact with, Robinson said.
“It’s best if we can vaccinate as many people as possible, even young children, to protect the population as a whole and protect entire families,” she said.
Are masks needed after vaccination?
“You do need the masks because we don’t know everybody else got vaccinated or not and we are not at the level of herd immunity yet,” Dr. Saroja Yalamanchili said.
They signal protection to others, according to Moss.
“It’s also to make sure everyone knows that you’re not going to give them that virus because you don’t walk around with a vaccine card on your lapel,” Moss said.
Do the vaccines protect against variants?
Yes, but the efficacy rates are lower and depend on the variant, according to the panelists.
“So far, J&J and Moderna and Pfizer are doing well, they are not always as effective, but they certainly are much, much more effective than getting nothing,” Moss said.
What’s the risk of severe blood clots?
Dr. Vikas Patel of the interventional cardiology department said there is a plausible relationship between the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and 15 cases of thrombosis or severe blood clots in young to middle-aged women. The instances are very rare and extremely rare in men and older women.
Getting vaccinated while using oral contraceptives like birth control does not increase the risk of thrombosis, he said.
Where are Riverside’s clinics?
Riverside Healthcare is now conducting vaccine clinics six days a week at six locations: Coal City, Watseka, Frankfort, Bourbonnais, Bradley immediate care and the Kankakee outpatient center.
Anyone eligible for the vaccine can register to get a shot through MyChart or create a MyChart account at riversidemychart.org.