SUN-TIMES MEDIA WIRE - The family of a woman killed along with an off-duty Chicago Police officer in a crash that followed a police pursuit on the West Side early Tuesday has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit claiming wrongful death and excessive force.
The officer killed in the crash in Lawndale was identified by the Cook County medical examiner’s office on Friday as 32-year-old Taylor Clark, a South Loop resident. A police spokesman would not confirm that information.
The Independent Police Review Authority is investigating the crash, which occurred when officers in an unmarked police vehicle saw the off-duty officer’s personal SUV near Roosevelt and Independence shortly before 1 a.m.
The officer — who had worked as a tactical officer in the Ogden (10th) District for four years — drove through the intersection of Roosevelt and Kostner at “a high rate of speed” and collided with a vehicle driven by 27-year-old Chequita Adams, killing them both, according to Police Supt. Eddie Johnson.
An autopsy on the officer, pronounced dead at Stroger Hospital at 2:55 a.m., did not rule on cause and manner of death, with results pending further investigation, according to the medical examiner’s office.
In a Facebook post on the page of the Suburban Unity Alliance, a friend of Clark wrote that the officer had worked for the Chicago Park District for four years as a recreational instructor for kids at the Austin Town Hall.
“This is a hard pill to swallow because Clark was also the coach of the very teens I’m looking after now. Clark was also a popular DJ at one point before he decided to take on his dream of being an officer of the law. Clark was shy, creative, eager and a fitness fanatic,” the friend wrote.
Adams was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where she died at 1:27 a.m., according to the medical examiner’s office. An autopsy did not rule on cause and manner of death, with results pending further investigation. She lived in the West Side North Lawndale neighborhood.
On Thursday, Adams’ family filed a federal lawsuit naming the city, Clark’s estate, and the unknown driver of the pursuing police vehicle.
The suit claims CPD “does not adequately train its officers to determine how and when they may use force and/or engage in or disengage from pursuits; appropriately supervise officers to identify dangerous tactics or behaviors that may indicate an officer needs additional training or other intervention; review its force and/or pursuit practices as a whole to identify problematic trends or patterns that endanger officers and others; review its officers’ force and/or pursuit incidents to determine whether the force used and/or pursuit complied with the law or departmental policy; or punish officers who use unconstitutional and excessive force or wrongful pursuit tactics against citizens causing great harm or death.”
It says the pursuing officer had “no probable cause to believe the occupant of Clark’s vehicle had committed a crime,” but still engaged in a “reckless pursuit” and “never disengaged” until the crash.
It claimed the pursuit was carried out “in the face of imminent danger and in gross disregard and indifference for the safety of others…”
It charges Clark with civil battery for “driving at reckless speeds though a residential neighborhood,” and claims the city should have disciplined the pursuing officer.
A city spokesman declined the comment, stating that the city has not yet received the suit.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said earlier that the officer had finished his shift 10 minutes before and was driving to his girlfriend’s home. His vehicle matched the description of one used in an earlier carjacking. But it was not the same vehicle, police said.
After a short pursuit, the on-duty officers turned off their vehicle’s lights and left “a great distance” between their vehicle and that of the off-duty officer, Guglielmi said.
Johnson said that, since the crash involved an officer, he asked Sharon Fairley and IPRA to take the lead in the investigation “in the name of impartiality and public integrity.”
“We have a lot of work ahead of us,” Fairley said.
Johnson said that it was not known if the officers in pursuit knew that the driver was an off-duty officer.
A visibly disheartened Johnson said, “I really want to say how sorry we are that this happened because it really was an unnecessary loss of life. It’s just a tragedy.”
Grief counselors were also assigned to the Ogden District Tuesday to aid grieving officers, Johnson said.