Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, who is now running for Illinois governor, arrived last year at the scene of an arrest by Aurora police in which his then-girlfriend was accused of hitting a security guard at a marijuana store.
The charges against her “would be taken care of,” a police officer overheard him say, according to a police report of the incident obtained by the Aurora Beacon-News and Chicago Tribune. She was charged with an ordinance violation for battery, a minor municipal charge.
In a GOP primary race where Irvin has elevated himself as a law-and-order candidate, the revelation that he showed up at an Aurora police arrest dealing with his girlfriend threatens to dent the image he is trying to cultivate through a relentless, tough-on-crime ad campaign.
Irvin disputes the characterization of his comments that were included in the police report and that it might have implied he used his influence as mayor to affect the charges against his then-girlfriend, Laura Ayala-Clarke, saying that was “actually incorrect.”
While acknowledging he may have said the “charges would be taken care of,” as the report stated, he said in an interview with the Tribune and Beacon-News that he was assuring Ayala-Clarke that she would get an attorney and the matter would be handled in court.
“When I told her that … things ‘would be taken care of,’ I meant that she would get a lawyer, which is what I helped her to do,” Irvin said. “I told her specifically not to argue or have any conversations with the police about it, that it would be handled in court, and that it would be taken care of, since that, you know, she’d be afforded a lawyer. And she does have lawyers, and they’re taking care of it from this point on.”
Facing five opponents who have focused much of their political ire at him in part because his campaign has received $45 million from Citadel CEO Ken Griffin, Irvin on Wednesday sought to quell the news included in the police report, which was being released by the Aurora Police Department following a public records request. His campaign provided an unredacted version of the report to clear up any issues about what occurred at the Zen Leaf in Aurora on May 24, 2021, he said.
The report lays out in detail what happened, according to police.
Ayala-Clarke went to the store to buy cannabis products and needed to get $100 from an ATM that was inside the store. When the ATM didn’t work, she became frustrated, the report states, and when she complained to store employees they told her to contact the business that runs the ATM. Ayala-Clarke said she would not leave until her boyfriend, Irvin, arrived, according to the report.
After Ayala-Clarke refused for an hour to leave, a security guard told police that she attempted to grab Ayala-Clarke’s right arm to get her to leave but that Ayala-Clarke kicked the security guard in the leg and struck her in the abdomen before the guard pepper sprayed Ayala-Clarke in the face, according to the report.
In his interview with the Tribune and Beacon-News, Irvin said Ayala-Clarke called him in a “frantic circumstance” because she wanted someone to drive her home following the scuffle. After Irvin arrived at the scene, a police officer informed her she was being charged while she was sitting in Irvin’s car.
“She stated that she should not be charged because security put her hands on her. Her boyfriend overheard the charging information and was upset that security placed their hands on Ayala-Clarke,” police reported. “Her boyfriend called someone via Bluetooth within the vehicle and stated the charges and relayed to the person on the other end of the phone that the ‘charges would be taken care of.’ ”
Asked to respond, Irvin said the characterization in the police report was “actually incorrect.”
“What I’m saying is that, while in the car, I explained to her the charges of the documentation after the police gave them to her, and I drove her home,” Irvin said.
He also said he did not recall speaking to anyone via his Bluetooth.
“I had no conversation with anyone other than Laura in the car,” he said.
Irvin also denied any involvement in trying to get charges against Ayala-Clarke changed.
Aurora police spokesman Paris Lewbel said it is at an officer’s discretion to decide whether to charge a case as a local ordinance violation or as a criminal case through state law and will often cite someone under a local ordinance for minor cases, such as trespassing or battery.
Before Irvin arrived at the scene, Ayala-Clarke repeatedly referenced Irvin, saying, “I’m going to call my boyfriend. You don’t know who my boyfriend is. He’s the mayor of Aurora,” as she complained about the ATM that wasn’t working for her, the police report said.
“He’s going to close you guys down for doing all of this and not giving my money back,” she said, according to the security guard’s account to police.
Records show Irvin has reappointed Ayala-Clarke to the city’s Hispanic Heritage advisory board, which advises the city on matters involving the Hispanic community and plans events, such as Fiestas Patrias. It is an unpaid post.
The guard declined to speak to the Tribune and Beacon-News. In a further text message, she wrote, “I wish I could help, but I just don’t want to be exposed to the public.”
Ayala-Clarke also declined to speak with a reporter.
Irvin said that when he arrived, he saw Ayala-Clarke outside on the sidewalk of Zen Leaf and walked her to the ambulance, where she flushed her eyes out and then went to sit in Irvin’s car.
When asked if he prevented her from being arrested, Irvin said, “No, not at all. I’m sure that would be in the police report if I did. As you can tell, if I was trying to influence this, my name probably wouldn’t have been in the police report at all.”
Irvin, who often has dodged reporters, stressed that he discussed the matter with the newspapers because he wanted to be “transparent” about the issue.
“I have nothing to hide,” Irvin said. “I have nothing to do with … the incident other than driving a friend home.”