by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producer
CHICAGO (CBS) — The City Council Finance Committee has signed off on a $4.9 million settlement with the family of 27-year-old Chequita Adams, who was killed in a high-speed chase in June 2017, when an off-duty officer fleeing from police slammed into her car.
Police Officer Taylor Clark had just wrapped up his shift in the Ogden District on the West Side, when on-duty officers spotted his Jeep Cherokee, which matched the description of a vehicle wanted in a carjacking, according to First Assistant Corporation Counsel Renai Rodney.
Clark sped away from the officers’ unmarked squad car, reaching speeds of up to 107 mph, and running a red light at the intersection of Roosevelt Road and Kostner Avenue, where he crashed into Adams’ Nissan. Adams and Clark were killed in the crash.
“This is among the most difficult, heart-breaking addresses I’ve had to make since becoming superintendent, due to the unnecessary loss of life,” Police Supt Johnson said at the time of the crash.
The officers who were following Clark’s vehicle did not activate their siren at any time during the pursuit, and didn’t activate their flashing lights until just moments before the crash. Rodney said an expert hired by the city after Adams’ family filed a lawsuit determined, had the officers activated the lights and sirens, Clark likely would have pulled over.
Rodney said it turned out Clark’s vehicle was not the one being sought in a carjacking, and because he died, authorities don’t know why he started speeding.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability has recommended the officer who was chasing Clark – Officer Jamie Jawor – should be fired for driving without due regard for safety, and driving in excess of the speed limit. However, Police Supt. Eddie Johnson rejected that recommendation, which meant a random member of the Chicago Police Board had to decide whether the board should take up the case.
With that one board member deciding to send Jawor’s case to the full board, Johnson now must file formal disciplinary charges, and the board will hold an evidentiary hearing to determine if Jawor should be fired. No disciplinary charges have yet been filed, and the hearing has not been scheduled, according to Rodney.
Jawor has been placed on administrative duties as a non-emergency call-taker while she awaits the results of her disciplinary case.
Rodney said Adams’ family was seeking $16 million in damages, and if the case had gone to trial, city attorneys determined a jury likely would have found Jawor’s actions “willful and wanton,” and would have awarded Adams’ family substantially more in damages than the $4.9 million settlement agreement.
The settlement agreement must still be approved by the full City Council, which meets next week.
Rodney told aldermen Clark’s estate also is suing the city, blaming Jawor’s actions for the crash. That case is pending.
The Finance Committee on Thursday also approved two other settlements in cases of police wrongdoing, both of them involving improper raids. The panel signed off on a $295,000 settlement agreement with Wivionia Haywood Jones and Erick Smith, after police burst into the couple’s apartment without a warrant; and a $200,000 settlement with Karonna Williams and her two sons, after officers busted into their home while serving a warrant for an apartment across the hall.