NILES, Ill. (CBS) — Cook County Sheriff’s Police Officer Thomas M. Nortman has been charged in a September 2018 crash that killed two women in Niles.
Nortman is charged with two counts of reckless homicide and two counts of aggravated reckless driving in the Sept. 6, 2018 crash, according to the Niles Police Department.
Nortman walked out of jail just after 3 p.m. after paying $20,000 – 10 percent of his $200,000 bond.
In the crash, the sheriff’s police squad car struck a Honda Accord in the intersection of Dempster Street and Harlem Avenue. Prosecutors on Tuesday said seconds before slamming into the car, Nortman was driving nearly 80 mph.
The driver, Ludwika Moskal, 69, and passenger, Helena Lukasik, 64, died from injuries from the crash.
Nortman, 48, was taken to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, but his injuries were not life-threatening. He has been with the department since May 2008.
According to prosecutors, he was off duty but was heading to the courthouse in Skokie from his home in Olympia Fields for roll-call.
Initially, police believed rainy weather caused the crash. But afterward, witnesses came forward and said the officer was in a hurry, prosecutors said.
Two people died when a Cook County Sheriff’s Police cruiser and another car collided in north suburban Niles on Sept. 6, 2018. (Credit: CBS)Prosecutors say Nortman “erratically changed lanes to maneuver around multiple other vehicles” on the slick roads following rain.
After seeing him cross over the center line to assess oncoming traffic but move back into his lane, a witness described the officer’s driving as appearing to “have road rage” and being in a hurry, according to court documents.
The officer also used the right lane to pass a semi-truck when he struck the victims’ vehicle on the passenger side as it made a left turn. According to prosecutors, Nortman was driving 78-79 miles per hour in a 35 mile per hour zone, based on surveillance footage.
Prosecutors said after the crash, Nortman turned on his body camera and went to the victims’ car – where he tried to wake the victims up.
The crash was investigated by the North Regional Crimes Task Force — Major Crash Assistance Team.
The officer was de-deputized and placed on desk duty following the incident and remains on that status, according to the sheriff’s office. An internal investigation is ongoing.
The Moskal and Lukasik families issued a statement in reaction to the charges.
“The Moskal and Lukasik families are grateful to the dedicated police force who investigated this accident and to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office for working towards justice,” the statement said. “The loss we have experienced is tremendous and although nothing can bring Ludwika or Helena back to our family, we are looking forward to closure.”
Their attorneys, Sam L. Amirante and Jim O’Hagan, added in the statement, “We trust that this development in the legal process will result in justice for our clients and for their families who have been significantly affected by this severe loss.”
Nortman is due in court in Skokie August 27. His bail has special conditions; including no gun, no driving, and no contact with witnesses or victims’ family members.
If convicted, Nortman faces a sentence ranging from probation to five years in prison.