CHICAGO (CBS) — The family of a man who was struck by a vehicle allegedly driven by the now-former Oak Lawn village manager is now suing the suburb.
Mark Berkshire’s family is also suing former Oak Lawn Village Manager Larry Deetjen himself. Berkshire has been in the hospital for three months.
“So far, the Village has failed to contact the family to offer any assistance to Mr. Berkshire. The family regrets to report that Mark Berkshire remains hospitalized and in serious condition as his medical bills continue to mount each day. Mr. Berkshire has undergone several surgeries with more to come,” attorney Victor P. Henderson said in a news release. “The family remains hopeful that the Village and Mr. Deetjen will soon admit their role in this tragedy.”
Chicago Ridge police responded that day to a hit-and-run crash near 101st Street and Harlem Avenue, and found a 48-year-old man who had been hit by a car. Berkshire, of Worth, was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in critical condition following the accident.
“He was able to walk, he was able to talk – and now he’s not able to do those things,” Henderson told CBS 2’s Jermont Terry.
Chicago Ridge Police said, according to witnesses, the car that hit Berkshire was owned by the Village of Oak Lawn. The car was located at a home near 51st Avenue and 96th Street in Oak Lawn, and the driver was identified as Deetjen, who was taken into custody.
Deetjen was charged with one count each of:
- Leaving the scene of an accident
- Failure to render aid
- Failure to give information after striking a person
- Failure to reduce speed/driving too fast for conditions
- Failure to exercise caution
Chicago Ridge Police Chief Robert Pyznarski said Deetjen told investigators he knew he had hit something, but didn’t see a traffic stop, so he thought it was just something in the road and kept going. It was dark and raining at the time.
Deetjen also left the scene of another accident some years back, although no one was hurt in that incident. In 2013, Palos Park Police found Deetjen’s village-issued car “unoccupied” with “under carriage damage” after the car hit a cement block on Southwest Highway.
Cops ran the plate and traced the car in the ditch to the Village of Oak Lawn. It turned out a Village of Oak Lawn truck and tow truck arrived to pick up the vehicle first.
Deejten said he “was not familiar with the area at night” had “made a U-turn” and “went into a ditch.”
Deetjen stepped down from his position in December after initially being put on paid leave. Trustees voted 5-1 to give him a $100,000 exit package.
The lawsuit filed by Berkshire’s family sought unspecified compensatory damages.
“The family’s wondering what’s going on. I wondered what going on,” Henderson said.
The lawsuit said the Village of Oak Lawn “did not discipline Deetjen” following the Palos Park incident in 2013, and was therefore “encouraging such behavior.”
But the fact is Berkshire can’t stand or speak for itself.
There was no answer Monday night at Deetjen’s last known address when Terry dropped by.
He is formally charged with a misdemeanor, and that leaves the family more perplexed.
“The family has been even-tempered, but what I will tell you is that if it was you, or me, or anybody else that had been involved in an accident like this, in all likelihood we would have been charged with a felony within 24 to 48 hours,” Henderson said. “In this instance, it was months, and the man is charged with a misdemeanor.”
The village refused to comment on the lawsuit Monday night.