Police Officer: Video Shows Driver Who Killed Noah Katz Stopped at Stop Sign

Noah and Rachel Katz. Photo courtesy of the family
Noah and Rachel Katz. Photo courtesy of the family

The driver who killed two-year-old Noah Katz in the Portage Park community area Sunday afternoon was charged with running a stop sign, as well as other misdemeanors. But according to a police officer said recently recovered video shows the motorists actually stopped at the sign, a source said this afternoon.

At about 4:10 p.m. Sunday, Noah and his mother Rachel Katz, 39, were crossing east in the crosswalk on the south leg of the southernmost intersection of Giddings Street and Central Avenue, according to police. Van driver Alexander Vasquez, 48, was heading west on Giddings and turned south on Central, striking them. Noah was pronounced dead on the scene; Rachel was hospitalized with minor injuries.

Vasquez was issued one citation for failure to stop at a stop sign, two for failure to reduce speed, and two for failure to yield to a pedestrian in the crosswalk, police said. However, the police recently told 45th Ward alderman John Arena they do not expect the charges to be upgraded, Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh told me on Wednesday.

It’s now clear why that’s the case. According to the source, the officer said the police department’s Major Accidents section recently recovered video footage that clearly showed that Vasquez stopped at the stop sign on Giddings at Central before making the left turn and running over the child. It’s possible that the footage came from a security camera in the parking lot of the Jewel at the northeast corner of the intersection.

“What I heard was that there was a vehicle parked on the street that may have obstructed [Vasquez’s] view” of Noah and Rachel, the source said.

Police News Affairs has not released any information about the video, according to Officer Nicole Tanehill.

There appear to be security cameras on this light pole at Jewel next to the crash site. Image: Google Street View
There appear to be security cameras on this light pole at Jewel next to the crash site. Image: Google Street View

Had a driver been parked at the southeast corner of the intersection, blocking the crosswalk, it’s possible that Vasquez’s view of the pedestrians was blocked while he was stopped at his stop sign. However, had he been driving at a safe speed and keeping a proper lookout, he should have been able to brake in time to avert the tragedy.

Moreover, WGN reported that a witness said the boy was dragged several feet after impact and it appeared Vasquez was going to flee the scene, so the witness got out of his car and yelled at him to stop.

In the wake of this tragedy, Alderman Arena and the Chicago Department of Transportation are planning to expedite plans for sidewalk bump-outs at this intersection, which will calm traffic and shorten pedestrian crossing distances. The project had previously been postponed due to opposition from drivers, on the grounds that the removal of rush hour parking restrictions on this stretch of Central to allow the bump-outs would delay motorists.

A crowdfunding site established in support of the Katz family has raised over $28,000.

Nadig Newspapers provided a tip for this story.

  • David Henri

    Mr. Sposato, please read up on the latest designs for street safety. Bump-outs save lives by reducing pedestrian crossing distances and making pedestrians more visible to motorists. Speed bumps work. We just had them installed on Gunnison (Thank you Mr. Arena) , and they changed the street from a speedway to a normal residential street that is quieter and much safer.

  • JeffParkNIMBY

    That area of Central is already backed up, the only people who drive in the right lane of nut jobs doing 40mph when everyone else is at a standstill.

    Losing that lane will not affect cars that much, and it should be done in the name of pedestrian safety. How come pedestrian safety is a secondary consideration here?

  • Eric

    Rush hour parking bans will only work if the city tows cars parked on those streets, since it appears they don’t do this the bans are mostly ineffective.

    My commute includes a small stretch of Diversey (California to Western) and almost every morning and evening a few cars are parked in the added “travel” lane causing bottlenecks. (Yes, anecdotal evidence so it means nothing.)

  • Carter O’Brien

    The problem is that banning parking may largely work, but that space does not then function as a properly demarcated traffic lane. For starters, just look at the right hook crashes/deaths we’ve seen this year – drivers use the partially freed space as basically a way to weave around traffic on the right, which is lethal for cyclists.

  • I eagerly await electric cars because the only rational argument against congestion in the city is air pollution. Once they are all electric then congestion becomes an urban feature not a bug. And the best way to create congestion is to take a lane away for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). The worst way to create congestion is to widen streets to induce demand.

  • kastigar

    Many so-called “rush hour” restrictions are for some other reason. In April of 2016, Ald. Laurino has rush-hour restrictions signs put on the 5000 block of N. Central Park Ave – a residential street! Previously the Committee on Pedestrian and Traffic Safety recommended AGAINST these signs being posted.

    Just another “cars go first and faster” type of thing. No reason was ever given for these signs, no one knows who came up with this idea and who made the request. None of the neighbors asked for this.

  • ardecila

    I’m not a fan of allowing tons of curbside parking in bungalow belt neighborhoods where most people have garages anyway. You get people parking on the street and using their garages for extra storage, which is a poor use of valuable public land. It would be great to see parking on one side of the street, and a two-way cycle track on the other…

  • ardecila

    I work on Kimball in Logan Square with rush-hour restrictions. They’re wholly unnecessary, the traffic volume never justifies it unless there is construction on alternate roads. But the police do ticket the area reliably and people have gotten the message not to park there.

  • Bob Bank

    6 month’s ago, the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association (JPNA) Saferty Committee pointed out this very intersection, and asked 45th Ward Alderman, John Arena to put a stop sign, brighter lighting, flashing red light, lighted speed “your speed is…” sign, speed camera or other device to make the Gidding / Central crossing safer. Why can’t that be done NOW! Why do we have to sit through another neighborhood civil war over Arena’s “Road Diet” agenda, just to make this intersection safe. The JPNA offered some simple and quick solutions; CDOT, Ald. Arena, make this corner safe NOW!

  • Bob Bank

    Alderman, Nick Sposato spent many years as a Chicago Fireman, saving lives. This headline is an insult to him and firefighters everywhere.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    With all due respect for the vital service firefighters provide and the sacrifices they make, fire departments are sadly often on the wrong side of the issue when it comes to creating safer street designs: http://usa.streetsblog.org/2016/03/22/retired-fire-chief-make-american-firetrucks-fit-city-streets-not-vice-versa/

  • Carter O’Brien

    I don’t see the connection.

    Alderman Sposato isn’t arguing that safer streets for pedestrians are a tradeoff with the movement of emergency vehicles. He’s specifically saying pedestrian/neighborhood safety needs to take a back seat to drivers rushing to/from the expressway during rush hour period. There’s a busy Jewel at this intersection – what it needs is not just a stop sign but traffic lights, which can be weighted so that Central traffic gets the bulk of the right of way, but provides a safe(r) time for both traffic and pedestrians trying to get across Central. As others have also noted, when drivers turn left from a dead stop across a busy street with speeding traffic, they often spend so much attention worrying about traffic on their right that they don’t pay much attention to pedestrians.

    By the way, in my experience, drivers who do not pull over to the right to respect fire engines, ambulances and police cars are exactly the drivers who use these “rush hour” lanes to weave around traffic. They are a danger to not only pedestrians and cyclists, but to everyone in a car as well. Alderman Sposato should understand the writing is on the wall with this nonsensical practice. The City can’t have this both ways – either create bona fide reversible lanes and sign them as such, or stop pretending a no parking sign creates a new lane of traffic. If you think I am joking about the lawsuit potential here, you should stop and ask yourself how this looks in front of a judge.

  • Carter O’Brien
  • Jeremy

    Since I was just almost hit by an Uber driver making a left turn, I am beginning to think this is a good idea.

  • mrsman

    It seems to me that the accident in question occurred from a driver who turned left from a small street to a busier one and did not properly look for the pedestrian.

    It seems that a better solution than removing the rush hour parking restrictions would be to force all drivers coming from Giddings to turn right onto Central.