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Witness: Driver Who Killed Pedestrian in Chatham Laughed About the Crash

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 5.21.05 PM
The crash site from the driver's perspective. Image: Google Maps

It’s rare for drivers who fatally strike pedestrians or cyclists in Chicago, or anywhere else in the U.S., to face serious charges unless they are intoxicated or flee the scene. However, George R. Evans, the man who struck and killed a still-unnamed 20-year-old woman last weekend in West Chatham, has been charged with a felony count of reckless homicide with a motor vehicle, along with traffic violations. Information provided by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office suggests that there’s plenty of evidence to back up that charge.

Evans’ bond hearing was held this morning and bail was set at $250,000, and he must put up $25,000 in order to be released, according to state’s attorney spokeswoman Tandra Simonton. The next court hearing is scheduled for Monday, May 18, at noon at the Cook County Courthouse, 26th and California.

According to the court record, the State’s Attorney’s office believes that evidence will confirm the following information, Simonton told me. On Sunday, April 26, at around 9:30 p.m., Evans, 23, was driving a rented Volkswagen Passat car with his cousin and the cousin’s young children when he stopped at a gas station at 79th and State, the court record states. While at the gas station, one of the children said she needed to use a bathroom, according to Simonton. The defendant said he would take his passengers home and drove onto the Dan Ryan Expressway at 79th, and then exited at 87th and headed south on Lafayette, the record states.

Before Evans entered the intersection of 87th and Lafayette in West Chatham, the traffic signal turned red, according to Simonton. The defendant made no attempt to stop and sped through the red light at 80 to 90 mph, according to multiple witnesses and a red light camera speed chart, the record states. Footage from the camera shows that the victim was crossing Lafayette in the crosswalk and had the right of way, according to Simonton. Evans struck the woman with such force that the windshield was shattered and the victim’s body was thrown approximately 100 feet, the record states.

After the crash, the defendant exited the vehicle and was observed by a witness to be on the phone laughing as he stood over the woman’s body, according to Simonton. Evans was overheard talking about having been in a crash the previous week, and his phone conversation was captured on cell phone video taken by a witness, the record states.

When the police arrived, they observed the defendant in the driver’s seat, and he subsequently admitted he had struck the woman, according to Simonton. Evans stated that he was using a rental vehicle because he had been a wreck the week before and his own car was totaled, the record states. The defendant refused to be tested for alcohol and drugs, according to Simonton, Along with reckless homicide, Evans was charged with failure to reduce speed, not yielding to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, and disobeying a red light.

As of this afternoon, the victim had not been identified, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. Fingerprint analysis is being done to determine the victim’s identity, according to Simonton.

This case illustrates that traffic cameras have value, not just for deterring red light violations and speeding, but also for documenting dangerous driving. If only there was this kind of camera footage and witness testimony in all cases where reckless drivers kill vulnerable road users, perhaps justice would be served more often, instead the motorists being let off with a slap on the wrist.

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