City ordered to pay $2 million in police chase

A Cook County jury Friday awarded $2 million to the daughter of a woman struck and killed by a driver fleeing Chicago police after blowing a red light.

The City of Chicago was ordered to pay $2 million to Elizabeth Santillana for the wrongful death of her mother, Dalia Santillana, who was killed when the vehicle driven by Jesus Gomez crossed the center divider, spun out of control and slammed into her car at 31st and Kedzie on July 18, 2000.

Gomez was fleeing police after he ran a red light at 26th near Trumbull, driving past a squad car stopped at the light, police said at the time.

The squad started to chase Gomez’s Chevy Caprice, sirens blaring, and as Gomez accelerated, he slammed into a truck at 31st and Lawndale.

The officers stopped at the scene to record the accident, but Gomez threw his car into reverse and fled again, according to police. Officers radioed that Gomez was on the run again, and officers in an unmarked car going west on 31st saw Gomez’s car drive past them, cross the divider and slam into Santillana’s car, police said.

But witnesses testified at trial that police continued the pursuit eastbound on 31st Street until Gomez struck Santillana’s car, said Timothy J. Cavanagh, the attorney for Santillana’s family.

Santillana, who was 51, was returning from work when she was killed.

“Gomez left 31st and Lawndale after a minor collision with the truck, and police chased him. If police had stopped at 31st and Lawndale, we believe this would have never happened,” Cavanagh said.

Tests later showed Gomez had cocaine, PCP and marijuana in his system. He was convicted of reckless homicide and is in prison.

Jennifer Hoyle, spokeswoman for the city’s Law Department, said the city was “disappointed” with the verdict.

“We think the blame for the crash lies solely with the driver of the car who hit her. He was speeding, fleeing from police, he had just hit another vehicle shortly before that crash and he was on cocaine, PCP and marijuana,” Hoyle said.

The city will be filing post-trial motions, and if these are not successful, it will be filing an appeal to the verdict, Hoyle said. There are more blogs like this one on our website.

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