Dustin Valenta’s Lawyer Pressures Police to Identify Hit-and-Run Driver
Frustrated by what he sees as passivity by the Chicago Police Department in tracking down the pick-up truck driver who ran over bicyclist Dustin Valenta on February 8 then fled the scene, Valenta’s lawyer is attempting to force the city to identify the motorist. Attorney Michael Keating has named the city of Chicago as a “Respondent in Discovery” in a civil suit against the unknown driver.
On March 20, Keating received red light camera footage of the pick-up from the Chicago Department of Transportation via a Freedom of Information Act request. Keating immediately forwarded the video to the CPD’s Major Accidents Investigation Unit, asking that the police use their video enhancement equipment to isolate the license plate number from the blurry footage.
Almost two weeks later Keating has gotten no response to his request, even though a witness has confirmed that the truck in the video was the one that ran over Valenta. He said that naming the city as a respondent in the lawsuit will force the CPD to share any information they have about the identity of the perpetrator. “I’m not asking for the sun, moon and stars here,” he said.
Slowed-down footage of the pick-up truck running over Valenta from a Citibank security camera. Video courtesy of Keating Law Offices.
Valenta was pedaling northwest past Artemio’s Bakery, 1443 North Milwaukee in Wicker Park, when a motorist in a parked car doored him. He fell into the road and was then run over by the pick-up, suffering a cracked skull, broken shoulder blades and hip, 23 cracked ribs and a punctured lung. Valenta is recovering remarkably well from this near-death experience.
The responding police officer ticketed the first driver but, oddly, instead of citing her for the dooring, charged her with violating an ordinance requiring motorists to yield to people on horseback. The collision wasn’t reported to Major Accidents until two weeks later, which Keating said delayed the search for the truck driver.
Keating is suing the first motorist, Jeaneane Quinn, as well as the hit-and-run driver, named as “John Doe” in the lawsuit. He explained his strategy in naming the city as a respondent. “The Respondent in Discovery statute is typically used to get a company or organization to identify one of their own employees or agents,” he said. “However, I thought this was a good use of this tool given that the City of Chicago has the ability to provide us the information.” The city has the option of responding or objecting to the discovery request. If they object, Keating plans to ask the judge to order them to respond.
Officer Steve Sesso from Police News Affairs confirmed that Major Accidents has reviewed all available video but has not yet identified the pick-up truck or its driver. He added that due to the low quality of the footage it may be impossible to make out the license plate, even with the enhancement software.
Asked whether he thinks it’s possible the CPD is intentionally moving slowly on the case because he has been regularly criticizing the department in the media for their lack of initiative, Keating said, “I don’t think I’ve been beating them up much at all relative to their absurd failures. I think that the CPD is aware that mistakes were made at the scene when Major Accidents was not called, and the case wasn’t investigated properly. My guess based on what I’ve seen is they want this to just go away.”