CHICAGO — A Cook County judge is requiring the Village of Oak Park to turn over evidence in a fatal March 9, 2019, crash after Cavanagh Law Group filed an emergency motion in the case.
Two people died after Kendall Harrison, 25, ran a red light and slammed his SUV into their sedan in Oak Park about 10:30 p.m. March 9. Police tried to curb Harrison’s SUV moments before the crash — but he sped away when an officer exited the squad car. At issue is whether Oak Park police engaged in a police pursuit.
Judge Brendan A. O’Brien on March 18 granted an emergency motion for protective order seeking evidence related to the crash.
“The Village of Oak Park and the Oak Park Police Department now have 14 days to provide the police cameras, the body cameras, the dashboard cameras and documents regarding the traffic stop and possible pursuit of the fleeing vehicle,” Cavanagh Law Group founder Tim Cavanagh stated. “If the police were engaged in a pursuit at the time of the crash and violated department policy, they should be held responsible for their role in the crash.”
Both people in the sedan died of their injuries: driver Joy Tyrus, 28, and passenger Pierre Shelton, 30.
Cavanagh and fellow CLG attorney Michael Sorich on March 14 filed a lawsuit on behalf of Shelton in the Circuit Court of Cook County. Harrison and the Village of Oak Park are listed as defendants.
The lawsuit alleges Oak Park “exhibited an utter indifference and conscious disregard” for Shelton’s safety because the village:
a. Failed to call off the police chase when the officer(s) knew or should have known that the risk posed a safety hazard to the public;
b. Failed to call off the police chase when the officer(s) knew or should have known that continuing the chase posed a safety hazard to the public, in violation of department rules, guidelines, policies and procedures; and
c. Violated police procedures and directives by chasing the Harrison vehicle when the officer(s) knew or should have known that the risk posed a safety hazard to the public.
In a statement, the Village of Oak Park said, “The officer had not initiated a chase when the SUV struck the sedan in the intersection.”
The suit also alleges Harrison, of Chicago, was negligent as a driver for failing to reduce speed, failing to yield the right-of-way and failing to maintain control of his vehicle.
Harrison was booked into Cook County Jail on March 12 after prosecutors charged him with felony reckless homicide and felony aggravated driving under the influence in the Oak Park crash.
Bond was set at $800,000, county records show. He will next appear in court for his criminal case on March 25.
In 2003, Cavanagh Law Group obtained a $2 million verdict in a fatal Chicago crash that occurred during a police chase in July 2000.
Officers in that incident were required by Chicago Police Department policy to abandon their chase when the driver they were pursuing struck a semi-truck.
Instead, Cavanagh proved, police continued to chase the driver for several minutes until he hit another vehicle head-on, killing 51-year-old Dalia Santillana as she drove home from work.
The Hon. Judge Brendan A. O’Brien of the Cook County Circuit Court will preside in the case of Pierre Shelton vs. Village of Oak Park and Kendall R. Harrison, Case No. 2019 L 002824.