Driver Who Had Been Drinking Fatally Strikes Man, Flees the Scene

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The intersection of 79th, Stony Island, and South Chicago, from the driver’s viewpoint. Image: Google Street View.

A motorist is facing reckless homicide charges after she struck and killed a 51-year-old man last month in the South Side’s Avalon Park neighborhood while driving as much as 50 mph, and then fled the scene.

Around 11:10 p.m. on Saturday, May 28, the male pedestrian was crossing in a crosswalk in the 7900 block of South Stony Island Avenue, police said. The Active Transportation Alliance has identified the intersection of 79th, Stony Island, and South Chicago Avenue as one of the most dangerous in the city.

Alicia Johnson, 22, was driving south on Stony Island in a red Chevrolet Impala when she struck the victim and kept driving, according to police officers who were in a squad car at the intersection, waiting to turn left on the green light. The crash was recorded on their dashcam, according to prosecutors at a hearing on Tuesday of last week.

The victim was transported to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. As of early last week, his name had not been released pending notification of kin.

Using footage from a red light camera at the intersection, police were able to get Johnson’s license plate number and tracker her down at her home on the 9700 block of South Avalon Avenue at about 11:30 p.m., according to prosecutors. There they found the car with a cracked windshield and front–end damage.

After police arrested her Johnson made a videotaped statement that she drank a “cup of Hennessy” prior to the collision, and that she was doing 45-50 mph when she struck the man, prosecutors said.

Johnson’s defense attorney Charles Ingles said that other cars were speeding at the same rate as Johnson at the time, she had the green, and she didn’t see the victim because he ran into the street from between two other cars. He claimed his client fled the scene because “she just panicked,” the Chicago Tribune reported.

Johnson also claimed that she tried to brake when she saw the man crossing, but her brakes did not stop the car in time. According to the prosecutor’s report, mechanics told Johnson that she needed new brakes when she recently took her car in for an oil change.

Johnson was charged with reckless homicide, leaving the scene of an accident causing injury or death, and failure to show due care for a pedestrian in the roadway. As of last week, DUI test results were pending with the Illinois State Police, according to prosecutors.

Johnson was ordered held in lieu of $35,000 bail. The judge ordered that, if Johnson was able to post bail, she would have to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet, maintain a curfew, and not drive.

Fatality Tracker: 2016 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths
Pedestrian: 12 (seven were hit-and-run crashes)

Update 6/8/16: The victim has been identified as James A. Harris of the  7900 block of South Essex Avenue, about a mile east of the crash site.

  • Will the videos be released? I don’t understand the lawyer’s statement that the victim stepped out from behind another car. There’s no parking there.

  • what_eva

    Maybe the police car in the left turn lane?

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Actually, it appears the driver claimed the pedestrian quickly moved into the street from between two other moving cars. I’ve edited the piece accordingly.

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