Driver killed retired CPD officer Richard Haljean, 57, on speed-plagued stretch of Touhy
Chicago’s ongoing epidemic of hit-and-run pedestrian fatalities took the life of a former police officer on Thursday evening, when a driver fatally struck retired cop Richard Haljean, 57, in the Edison Park neighborhood on the Far Northwest Side, and fled the scene. Residents have previously asked for speed cameras to be installed on Touhy.
According to Police News Affairs, on Thursday, January 20, at about 6:15 p.m., Haljean was walking north across the 7600 block of Touhy, at Oriole Avenue. The westbound driver of a Jeep Cherokee struck the pedestrian and drove off without stopping to render aid.
Haljean was transported to Lutheran General Hospital where he was pronounced dead, police said.
As of Saturday morning, no one was in custody, police said. According to the Twitter feed Chicago Scanner, the Jeep driver left a license plate at the scene.
— 𝕮𝖍𝖎𝖈𝖆𝖌𝖔𝕾𝖈𝖆𝖓𝖓𝖊𝖗 (@Chicago_Scanner) January 21, 2022
“The person probably panicked and was concerned about their own well-being and their future and safety, but, you know, as a human being, you gotta stop,” Haljean’s friend Chris Brown told ABC Chicago.
Nearby residents said speeding is common on this stretch of Touhy, located about two miles east of I-294, and roughly two miles west of I-94, and there have been a few other crash there in the past year, according to ABC. “No cars stop,” Sharon Sands said. “People fly down here. We’ve had cops sit down there last summer where the buses pull over just to see how many people flew past here, and they must’ve stopped like four cars.”
“It is scary, and I think part of the issue is that this particular stretch of Touhy Avenue is in between 294 and 94, and [there’s] a lot of truck traffic, a lot of people rushing to get home,” Conan Kisor told ABC.
41st Ward alderman Anthony Napolitano told ABC he has asked the Chicago Department of Transportation to install speed cameras in the area. In September 2015 Napolitano oversaw the removal of a red light camera about a quarter mile east of the crash site at Touhy and Osceola, which had recorded 4,462 red light violations between 2011 and July 2015, according to a DNAinfo report.
In October 2018, the alderman announced the installation of digital speed indicator signs, which tell drivers how fast they’re going but don’t issue tickets, near four different local schools, according to Nadig Newspapers. “They’re flying, 60 mph-plus [on Touhy],” Napolitano said at the time. At a community meeting in 2016, many residents had expressed support for adding speed cameras on Touhy, Nadig reported.
According to CPD, Haljean worked as a Chicago police officer for over 30 years. He retired in May 2020. Haljean also served as a Marine, and had three children.
“It’s sad, it’s heartbreaking, every adjective you can think of,” John Garrido, a friend of Haljean and fellow police officer who previously ran for alderman of the nearby 45th Ward. “To have the life that he’s had and all the things that he’s gone through, his military service and his police service, to end this way is just tragic.” Addressing the hit-and-run driver, he added, “They’re going to find you. There is an investigation and you’re going to be found.”
In 2014, Garrido helped block CDOT’s proposal for a road diet with protected bike lanes on Milwaukee Avenue northwest of the Jefferson Park Transit Center, using the safety project as an aldermanic campaign issue. In July of last year, Thomas Travers, 59, was fatally struck by a minivan driver on that stretch of Milwaukee. Two months later, a hit-and-run driver fatally struck a 65-year-old woman on Milwaukee just south of the project area.
Friends told ABC Haljean had recently been experience health issues. “For a nice guy to have health problems that he was dealing with, to have to go, and this way, it’s tragic,” Chris Brown said. “And to know somebody didn’t care enough to stay and see how [he] was is heartbreaking. Just thinking about his family trying to spend as much time as they can with him and to have it cut short like this is just terrible.”
“Trying to do as much as you can with your life with however much time you have left and to have it just snatched away from you like this, it’s heartbreaking,” Garrido said.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help pay for Haljean’s children’s education.
Fatality Tracker: 2021 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths on surface streets
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.