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Suspect crash in Chicago pursuit kills off-duty police officer

The way Chicago police pursue fleeing criminal suspects changed after 2003. That was when a pregnant bystander was killed by a driver eluding capture over a stolen wallet. Since then, the city's high-speed chases have been reserved for dangerous suspects.

The woman driver recently chased by a Calumet Park officer had a criminal record with Cook County convictions for theft and multiple traffic offenses, including running stop signs, speeding and driving without ever having a license. A witness said the van driver tried to lose the officer by repeatedly entering and exiting the Dan Ryan Expressway. The pursuit ended abruptly on the South Side.

A fatal crash occurred at an intersection when the van struck a Lexus and shoved the car into a utility pole. The car driver, a Chicago police officer on his way home from work, was killed. The 42-year-old off-duty officer was a member of the city police force for over 10 years, a husband and the father of two boys.

The 31-year-old van driver and a 33-year-old male passenger, a convicted drug offender, were hospitalized with injuries. The woman was treated for a broken arm and released; the passenger's injuries were more extensive. Crash investigators said they found bags of marijuana in the crashed van.

The officer involved in the pursuit was placed on a desk job pending an internal investigation. Calumet Park authorities said the law enforcer, an officer since 2001 and member of the suburban police force for about five years, had been ordered to cease the high speed chase before the fatal car accident. Reports did not say how long before the crash the order was issued.

Police, police departments and the governments they serve often cannot be held liable for civilian injuries. Personal injury attorneys know the exceptions to sovereign immunity laws that allow injured car chase victims to seek a settlement or damages.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Calumet Park investigating police chase crash that killed Chicago cop" Jeremy Gorner, Angie Leventis Lourgos and Adam Sege, Mar. 14, 2014

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