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Family of Fallen Cyclist Jezniah Smith Plans to File Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Photo: Sean Williams

The family of Jezniah Smith, 34, who was killed in Humboldt Park last Wednesday, January 11, intends to file a lawsuit against the driver who struck him, according to Smith’s sister Artrenia Bowman.

At about 10:40 p.m. on the night of the crash, Smith was biking west on Division Street when he was hit by the driver of a Chevy Cruze car who was heading north on Sacramento, according to the police. A sketch on the crash report indicates that the cyclist was struck at the northeast corner of the intersection. Smith was transported to Stroger hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

The crash report identifies the driver as Jeffrey Martin Randall, 36, a resident of Saint Augustine, Florida. Martin, who stayed at the scene and was not cited.

The Cook County medical examiner’s office was not immediately able to identify Smith. According to the crash report, he was not carrying identification. Although DNAinfo first published his name on Friday afternoon, the medical examiner’s office stated that the name was released by mistake and his next of kin had not yet been notified.

Jezniah Smith
Jezniah Smith
Jezniah Smith

According to Artrenia Bowman, Smith’s family did not learn of his death until yesterday, when his mother called the medical examiner’s office in an effort to locate him, since she had not heard from him for a few days. “We love him and we’re going to miss him,” Bowman said.

According to Bowman, Smith lived near Division and California, two blocks east of the crash site, and she believes he may have been making a trip to a store when he was struck. He was known by the nickname “Palm” to his family and “Jay” to his friends, she said. “He rode his bike 24/7,” she said. “He was a bike fanatic… He had the sweetest heart."

The family is retaining the bike-focused personal injury firm Keating Law Offices (a Streetsblog Chicago sponsor) to represent them in a wrongful death lawsuit against Martin. An officer from Police News Affairs previously stated that the police believe Randall had a green light when he struck Smith, which is why he wasn’t cited. However, attorney Michael Keating noted that the crash report makes no mention of independent witnesses or surveillance camera footage. There are no traffic cameras at the intersection, although the city's traffic camera map shows that there is a speed camera about a block south of Division on Sacramento, which may have taken footage of the northbound driver.

“The only version of the story we have is from the driver,” Keating said. “Therefore it’s unreasonable for the police to presume that the driver had the green.” He added that part of the reason the family is filing a lawsuit is that this will provide the firm with the power to subpoena the police department's file on the case, as well as any witnesses or security camera footage that may exist.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help pay for funeral costs. The family has also contacted Ghost Bikes Chicago to request that a white-painted bike be placed at the crash site as a memorial to Smith. The installation is scheduled for Monday, January 23, at 5:30 p.m. and members of the local bike community are encouraged to attend.

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