CHICAGO (CBS) — An off-duty Chicago police officer and a 27-year-old woman were killed in a high-speed crash in the Lawndale neighborhood early Tuesday, moments after the officer allegedly fled when other police tried to pull him over.
Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said, around 1 a.m. Tuesday, on-duty officers in an unmarked police SUV saw a vehicle matching the description of a vehicle that possibly had been used in an earlier crime and tried to pull it over. It wasn’t the right vehicle, but the driver did not stop, and instead sped away. Johnson said it does not appear the on-duty officers knew the driver was an off-duty cop.
Moments later, the off-duty officer’s Jeep hit a silver Nissan at a high rate of speed at the intersection of Roosevelt Road and Kostner Avenue. Johnson said the off-duty officer and the woman driving the Nissan were killed.
“This is among the most difficult, heart-breaking addresses I’ve had to make since becoming superintendent, due to the unnecessary loss of life,” Johnson said. “On behalf of myself and the entire Chicago Police Department, it’s with a heavy heart that I offer my deepest condolences to the young lady that lost her life, and her family, and the family of the off-duty police officer.”
The woman’s family has identified her as 27-year-old Chequita Adams.
Police have not released the off-duty officer’s name, but Johnson said the officer was approaching his fourth anniversary on the force. He said it’s unclear why the officer did not stop when the unmarked SUV tried to pull him over.
“We just don’t know. We just don’t know. You know, it’s just too early to say,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the unmarked police SUV activated its emergency lights when police tried to pull over the off-duty officer, but deactivated them before the crash. He said it does not appear the officers activated their siren.
Based on a preliminary investigation, Johnson said it appears the officers who tried to make the traffic stop followed department protocol when they pursued the Jeep.
“When officers attempt to curb a vehicle, they don’t know whether or not that person is going to comply. We just don’t know. It depends on what that driver does, so we don’t try to pull over a car with the anticipation of them taking off on us,” he said.
The superintendent said he has asked the Independent Police Review Authority to lead the investigation, since the case involves an off-duty officer.
IPRA chief administrator Sharon Fairley said the agency is seeking any witnesses, and collecting all available video and audio evidence.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us. Again, I reiterate what the superintendent says; our hearts go out to the families of the persons who were killed in this tragic event,” Fairley said.
There is no dashboard camera video of the chase, because the officers in pursuit were driving an unmarked SUV, according to Johnson.
After the off-duty officer collided with Adams’ car, both vehicles wrapped around a utility pole. Both vehicles were ripped apart, to the point they were virtually unrecognizable after the wreck.
Rescue crews had to use the jaws of life to free the victims from the mangled mess of metal. Debris from the crash was spread across a gas station at the corner of Kostner and Roosevelt.
The off-duty officer was taken to Stroger Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Police escorted his body from the emergency room to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office in a blue light procession. Adams was pronounced dead at the scene.
A man who asked to remain anonymous said he saw the whole thing. He said the off-duty officer was speeding, and his Jeep was being pursued by police officers in an unmarked SUV when he broadsided Adams as she was trying to turn left. He estimated the off-duty officer was driving 100 mph.
Surveillance video from a nearby church shows a Jeep being chased by an SUV with blue flashing lights.
The man who saw the crash said when it happened, he immediately started praying, because he knew lives had been lost. Then he saw the woman’s belongings strewn on the street. He said it’s an image he’ll never forget.
“There was just, like, her purse, all the stuff out the car is just everywhere,” he said.
Adams lived about a half mile away from the crash scene. Her mother said she left home around 11:30 p.m. Monday night, and was on her way home at the time of the crash.
“When they told me it was a female in a silver Nissan, and she wasn’t in her room, I just ran to the police station, and I knew that was my baby,” Chereta Adams said.
Chequita Adams was studying nursing, and working as a security guard while she finished college. Her mother said she was quiet, happy, and always stayed out of trouble. The family’s grief and loss was immense.
“We grew up together. Oh my God. I had her when I was 14,” Chereta Adams said. “Everything, everything, doctor’s appointments, graduations, family reunions; everything I did with my baby.”
Chequita’s death comes on the 21st anniversary of her uncle’s death. It’s also the second child her mother has lost. Chequita’s sister died several years ago from birth complications.