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Off-duty cop who reportedly ran stop sign, killing boy on bike, issued citation

Hershel Weinberger

Update 7/16/21, 10 AM: West Ridge alderman Debra Silverstein issued a statement on Hershel Weinberger's death, including the following passage. "We must all take this as a stark reminder to always drive safely—especially on residential streets. Drive slowly and always come to a complete stop at stop signs and traffic lights. Be extra cautious around schools, parks, and places of worship. We are fortunate to live in a vibrant community and the side streets are packed with children playing and families enjoying the summer. We all need to act to keep our neighborhood safe."

Update 7/16/21, 9 AM: According to Police News Affairs, the off-duty police officer who fatally struck Hershel Weinberger has been issued a citation for failure to exercise due care for a person in the roadway.

Witnesses said the off-duty police officer who fatally struck Hershel Weinberger, 9, on his bike last night in West Ridge ran a stop sign, but as of this afternoon the officer has received no citations or charges.

According to Police News Affairs, on Wednesday, July 14, around 8 p.m., Hershel was biking east on the north sidewalk of Chase Avenue when he crossed Sacramento Avenue in the crosswalk. In Chicago, it's legal for children younger than 12 to ride on the sidewalk.

The off-duty officer, 48, was driving  north on Sacramento in a Toyota Tundra full-size pickup truck, police said.

According to a report by Jenna Barnes from WGN News, "Witnesses say the boy was crossing the street at a crosswalk when a pickup truck [driver] appeared to run a stop sign and hit him." The intersection has four-way stop signs. The officer appeared to drag the bike before coming to a stop, and neighbors rushed to help the boy, Barnes said.

The officer's truck with Hershel's bike under it. Image: WGN News
The officer's truck with Hershel's bike under it. Image: WGN News
The officer's truck with Hershel's bike under it. Image: WGN News

According to WGN, Hershel's parents were outside and heard the collision. His father Shamai Weinberger held the boy before the child was taken to St. Francis Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 8:31 p.m.

As of Thursday afternoon, no citations or charges had been filed, the Sun-Times' David Struett and Mohammad Samra reported.

Chicago Fraternal Order of Police president John Catanzara Jr., who made headlines in January for defending the insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol, attempted to justify the driver's behavior to the Sun-Times, claiming the officer didn't see Hershel before he killed him. Catanzara said the man passed a Breathalyzer test after the fatal crash.

“It’s just a tragedy," Catanzara told the Sun-Times. "And any person could be in his shoes." That's despite the fact that witnesses said the officer ignored the stop sign, whereas if he had obeyed it Hershel might still be alive.

The intersection of Chase and Sacramento looking north. Image: Google Maps
The intersection of Chase and Sacramento looking north. Image: Google Maps
The intersection of Chase and Sacramento looking north. Image: Google Maps

"This just happens to be a Chicago police officer,” Catanzara told the Sun-Times. “Our hearts go out to the family. This officer is certainly never going to forget that. It’s sad all-around.”

Streetsblog Chicago is currently seeking additional information from the Chicago Police Department as to why the officer has not been cited or charged.

This is a vehicle of aggression if not altogether violence. It has no place on our streets.

This is not a passenger vehicle. The Tundra is equipped with an aftermarket lift kit and oversized tires to go over obstacles and a “bully bar” to ram objects. #bikeCHI #bikelawyer

— Mike Keating (@ILBicycleLaw) July 16, 2021

Hershel lived on the 2900 block of West Chase, a block east of the crash site, according a Chicago Tribune report by Katherine Rosenberg-Douglas and Mariah Rush. According to Shamai Weinberger, the boy had been playing at a nearby friend's house before he began biking the short distance home. Hershel was one of the family's four children, all boys, and had a twin brother.

Hershel went to school at Seymour J. Abrams Cheder Lubavitch Hebrew Day School in Skokie, the Tribune reported. “He enjoyed being a typical 9-year-old, living life to the fullest and being happy,” Shamai Weinberger said.

GoFundMe was started to help the boy’s family and has raised more than $98,000 towards a $150,000 goal in less than 24 hours.

Fatality Tracker: 2021 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths on surface streets

Pedestrian: 10
Bicyclist: 3

Note: Streetsblog Chicago’s traffic death numbers represent fatal crashes on Chicago surface streets, based on media reports and/or preliminary Chicago Police Department data released by the Chicago Department of Transportation.

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