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Witnesses: Officer Who Ran Red, Injured Cyclist Didn’t Use Lights or Sirens

Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 1.29.20 PM
Still from Chris Matthews' Facebook video of the aftermath of the crash. The officer's hand is red with the victim's blood.

According to the Chicago Police, an officer who struck and injured a 29-year-old female cyclist yesterday while running a traffic signal had activated the squad car’s emergency lights. But a witnesses says neither the car’s lights nor its sirens were on when the officer passed through the intersection, knocking the woman off her bike.

The crash took place at around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Jackson Boulevard and Hamlin Boulevard in East Garfield Park, according to Officer Laura Amezaga from Police News Affairs. Chris Matthews and Tremayne Cheers, who were in the adjacent Garfield Park green space when the collision occurred, posted videos on Facebook in which witnesses can be heard saying the officer driving the squad car didn’t follow the proper safety procedures. I first heard about Matthews' video from a post by Samuel Diaz on The Chainlink social networking site.

According to Amezaga, at the time of the crash the Chicago police officers were responding to a “shots fired” call at Hamlin and the Eisenhower Expressway, assisting Illinois state police. The Chicago police officer who struck the cyclist was heading south on Hamlin “with emergency lights activated,” Amezaga said, adding that the crash report doesn’t mention if the sirens were on.

The southbound officer slowed at the intersection to yield to another Chicago squad car traveling on Jackson towards the incident, according to Amezaga. She added that it appears the second squad car was traveling west at the time.

The female cyclist was riding west on Jackson when she was struck, Amezaga said. The victim was taken to Stroger Hospital in good condition, complaining of head, back, and side pain, Amezaga said. Footage from the two videos indicates that the woman was bleeding from the head after the crash. As of yesterday, she was to be treated and released, according to Amezaga.

Chris Matthews' Facebook video of the aftermath of the crash.

The police department’s account of the incident doesn’t jibe with comments audible on the videos posted by Matthews and Cheers, who were getting ready for football practice with the Midway Marauders semi-pro team when they witnessed the crash. On both videos, witnesses can be heard saying that the squad car that struck the bicyclist didn’t have its emergency lights on.

“We all saw it, the light was red, all these cars were stopped,” says a man, apparently Matthews, on his video. “[The officer] didn’t even have his lights on or nothin’ when he ran the ran the lights.”

“No lights, no nothing, just hit an innocent [person],” another man can be heard saying.

When I talked to Matthews, a 28-year-old CTA bus driver, this afternoon he confirmed that he saw the southbound officer strike the bicyclist, and that the officer hadn’t activated the squad car’s lights or siren prior to the crash. “I was facing that direction when it happened,” Matthews said. “[The southbound officer] slowed down and looked both ways to make sure no cars were coming, but I guess he didn’t see the lady because he wound up hitting her.”

Tremayne Cheers' Facebook video of the aftermath of the crash.

“He didn’t have his lights or sirens on – it was just like a rolling stop,” Matthews said. He added that the officer was accelerating and seemed to be driving at about 15 mph prior to hitting the woman. “He hit his brakes to stop, but it was too late,” he recalled. “You heard a screech and then a boom.”

Matthews isn’t sure whether the woman went under the squad car, but says her bike was run over and totaled. “Then I saw she was sitting in the street and they were holding her head up, and she was bleeding from her head,” he said.

Matthews said he hasn’t heard from the injured woman yet. “That’s one reason I put the video up on Facebook, so she can find it if she needs it,” he said. His video has already gone viral, with over 94,000 views.

According to Amezaga, no charges have been filed in conjunction with the crash, but the case is being investigated. “Any time a squad car is involved in a crash, there is an investigation,” she said.

Here's wishing the cyclist a speedy recovery. Hopefully we’ll hear from her soon so we can get an update on her condition, and get more information about what happened. We’ll keep you posted.

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