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Why Hasn’t the Driver Who Killed Francisco Cruz Been Apprehended Yet?

The intersection of Maypole and Pulaski where Francisco Cruz was struck, photographed last week. Photo: John Greenfield

[Last year the Chicago Reader launched a weekly transportation column written by Streetsblog Chicago editor John Greenfield. This partnership allows Streetsblog to extend the reach of our livable streets advocacy. We syndicate a portion of the column after it comes out online; you can read the remainder on the Reader’s website or in print. The paper hits the streets on Thursdays.]

In some respects, of the four fatal bike crashes that happened in Chicago within the space of about two months this summer, the death of 58-year-old North Lawndale resident Francisco "Frank" Cruz was the most disturbing.

All four cases involved allegedly reckless conduct by the drivers of commercial vehicles. But in the other incidents—in which courier Blaine Klingenberg, Divvy rider Virginia Murray, and art student Lisa Kuivinenlost their lives—the motorists stayed on the scene. The cargo-van driver who ran over Cruz as he rode his bike in West Garfield Park August 17 sped away from the crash without stopping to render aid.

And, almost a month after the crash, the driver remains at large, despite the fact that a security camera captured footage of the van that struck Cruz, complete with identifying information about the van's origins.

According to police, Cruz was biking south on Pulaski, just south of the Green Line station, at 10:19 PM, when a northbound driver in a white commercial van made a left turn onto Maypole, running Cruz over.Security video recovered from Family Meat Market, a corner store next to the crash site, appears to show the driver plowing into Cruz without hitting the brakes, then fleeing west on Maypole. Several bystanders can then be seen running to the fallen cyclist.

Security footage also shows that the van was marked with the phone number for Advanced Realty Services, a brokerage located at 2427 W. Madison.

Still, nearly a month after the fatal collisions, no one has been charged in conjunction with Cruz's death, according to police, and there are no updates on the search for the driver.

Screen Shot 2016-09-08 at 7.52.28 PM
Francisco Cruz

"The case remains open, and detectives continue to investigate," a Chicago Police Department spokesperson said via e-mail.

Police have asked anyone with information about the crash to call 312-745-4521.

I visited Advanced Realty's storefront five days after the crash, where I spoke with a man who was cleaning the office, but said he knew nothing about the case. When I called the office last week for comment, an employee took a message, but the call wasn't returned.

In the wake of Cruz's death, family members and friends have described the father of seven, also nicknamed "Pops," as a kindhearted man.

"He was just a nice person—he'd give you the shirt off his back," says Cruz's sister, Candy Cruz, 52, who spoke to me at their mother's home in North Lawndale last week. According to Candy, Frank worked as a security guard and a handyman, fixing roofs and ceilings. Since he didn't have a driver's license, he mostly got around on two wheels.

"He knew how to put bikes together," she said. "He was that kind of dude—he loved his bike."

"He was a good guy," Cruz's stepson Michael Burdine told CBS. "He helped everybody." Burdine added that he had been talking to people in the area, trying to get leads on the driver's identity. "We want justice."

Cruz's wife, Virgie Burdine, told CBS that the family would forgive the driver if they turned themselves in. "Please come forward and give yourself up," she said.

(I wasn't able to reach the Burdines before press time, and Cruz's mother, Isabelle Cruz, declined to comment.)

Hit-and-run collisions are a major problem in Chicago. According to city data, between 2005 and 2014, 40 percent of pedestrian fatalities involved drivers who fled. Of the 18 people who have been killed while walking in the city this year, according to news reports, eight, or 44 percent, were victims of hit-and-runs.

Candy Cruz blamed the delay in apprehending a suspect in her brother's death on crash witnesses, who she says should be able to help ID the motorist that killed her brother.

"They won't come forward because they're scared," she said. "Why should our family suffer because they don't want to get involved?"

Read the rest of the article on the Chicago Reader website.

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