Oak Lawn man was drunk when he fatally struck Hometown officer: police

An Oak Lawn man was ordered held on $1 million bail Monday after he allegedly drove drunk and fatally struck a Hometown police lieutenant directing traffic in the south suburb.

Otis M. Pruitt, 27, ran from the scene after striking Lt. James Kouski, but Pruitt was arrested in a nearby backyard and later determined to be driving with a blood-alcohol content nearly double the legal limit, Cook County prosecutors said.

Pruitt remained hospitalized Monday, according to the Cook County sheriff’s office.

The crash happened shortly after 3 a.m. Saturday while Kouski, a 34-year department veteran, directed traffic at the scene of a downed light pole from an earlier DUI crash at 90th Place and Pulaski Road, prosecutors said.


Before the crash, another driver saw Pruitt drive recklessly and nearly swipe the witness’ car, prosecutors said. Pruitt appeared to be driving 20 mph over the posted speed limit of 40 mph.

When Pruitt tried to overtake another car, Pruitt’s car appeared to nearly flip over as he braked to avoid a crash, prosecutors said. Pruitt continued to swerve in and out of traffic before striking the rear of Kouski’s parked squad car, which had its emergency lights on, prosecutors said.

The force of the crash sent the squad car forward into Kouski, 58, who was standing in front of it, throwing Kouski 40 to 50 feet down the road, prosecutors said. He was found unresponsive and bleeding from his head, and later died at a hospital. An autopsy found Kouski died from the crash, which fractured his skull and vertebrae, detached his spine from his brain, tore his aorta, punctured his lungs and tore his liver.

As Kouski lay in the road, Pruitt tried to drive away, prosecutors said. He allegedly drove over a raised median and then struck a guardrail. Pruitt allegedly exited and entered his car several times and revved his engine in an attempt to drive off. Once it was clear he couldn’t drive away, Pruitt allegedly ran off.

Oak Lawn officers arrested Pruitt in a backyard in the 4000 block of West 90th Place, prosecutors said. His speech was slurred, eyes bloodshot, he had a strong odor of alcohol and officers needed to assist him to walk, prosecutors said.

At a hospital, Pruitt blood alcohol content was measured at 0.156, prosecutors said. Pruitt also allegedly admitted that he was the only occupant of a car that was in a major crash.

Pruitt was charged Sunday with reckless homicide, aggravated DUI and failure to yield to an emergency vehicle.

Pruitt was convicted in 2013 of selling a handgun to a minor and was sentenced to three years in prison.

If Pruitt posts bail, he will be ordered on home electronic monitoring, and will be barred from driving, taking intoxicating substances and contacting the victim’s family or witnesses.

His next court date was set for April 9.