CPD officer who killed Maria Schwab, 56, almost escaped DUI charges because supervisor failed to report case, no Breathalyzer given
The officer wasn't tested until hours after she killed the pedestrian, giving the cop an opportunity to sober up almost to a legal blood alcohol concentration level.
12:32 AM CST on December 8, 2023
Update 1/31/23, 1:00 PM: Police News Affairs provided the following statement. Streetsblog commentary is in brackets.
"On January 29, 2024, Chicago Police Officer Tangie Brown, 40, surrendered for arrest to members of the Major Accident Investigation Unit at the 2nd District Chicago Police station. The Cook County State’s Attorney has since approved one (1) felony charge of Aggravated DUI/Accident/Death, one (1) felony charge of Aggravated Use of Communication Device/Death [due to Brown reportedly swerving her SUV after grabbing for her falling phone], two (2) misdemeanor charges of Failure to Give Info/Render Aid/Injury and one (1) misdemeanor charge of Reckless Driving. She was also cited for Failure to Reduce Speed and Improper Traffic Lane Usage. These charges and citations are in relation to a fatal traffic crash that occurred on December 7, 2023, in the 300 block of N. State (18th District). Brown was relieved of police powers that same day. Her initial court appearance is scheduled for January 30, 2024, at 2600 S. California.
According to a Chicago Sun-Times report by Matthew Hendrickson and Tom Schuba, at yesterday's hearing prosecutors said Brown was found to have had a blood alcohol concentration level of .093, just barely over the .80 legal limit. But she wasn't tested until two hours after she killed Maria Schwab, 56, giving Brown an opportunity to sober up. That's because the responding officers didn't offer her a BAC test at the scene, according to a police report.
The Sun-Times reported that Brown allegedly admitted that she had three drinks that night. A source said the officer was coming from the Near North police district's holiday party at the House of Blues. Prosecutors said Brown was witnessed heading to the parking garage after the gathering and leaving in her Infiniti SUV.
According to prosecutors, Brown was driving south when she dropped her phone as she tried to used GPS, and then tried to pick it up, the Sun-Times reported. She told responding officers that when she returned her eyes to the road, she saw she was heading toward the concrete median, and swerved to avoid it, instead hopping the curb, hitting a planter, Schwab, and another coworker, 37.
According to the Sun-Times, prosecutors said Brown struck the younger woman's leg, and pinned Schwab against a fence. The officer then reversed, causing her victim to fall several feet to a patio below the sidewalk. Schwab later died, while the other woman suffered minor injuries.
Following the crash, CPD supervisor Street Deputy Frederick Melean was supposed to oversee the response to the collision, but failed to show up at the scene, the Sun-Times reported. He didn't notify the police department's Bureau of Affairs about the incident. As a result, no one was there to give Brown a Breathalyzer test at the scene, when her BAC would likely have been higher than during her blood test hours later. When it became obvious Melean would be demoted for his misconduct, he retired less than a week after the crash.
Schwab's family is planning to file a wrongful death lawsuit against Brown, and possibly others involved in the tragedy, according to the Sun-Times.
Update 12/9/23, 10:45 AM: The Cook County Medical Examiner's office has identified the victim as Maria Schwab, 56, of Schertz, Texas. This article has been edited accordingly.
Friday CBS Chicago reported, "A Facebook post shows there was a Chicago Police Department holiday party going on at the House of Blues Wednesday night, but it was unclear if the off-duty officer was coming from that gathering."
According to the traffic crash report, an off-duty Chicago police officer's decision to pick up her dropped phone and take her eyes off the road resulted in tragedy. She caused her SUV to veer onto the sidewalk and fatally strike Maria Schwab, 56, who was visiting Chicago from Texas for a work event.
According to the initial Chicago Police Department report, on Thursday, December 7, around 12:30 a.m., the 40-year-old female driver of a white SUV "lost control of her vehicle before jumping the curb and striking a 56-year-old female victim who was on the sidewalk." Schwab was transported to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
The crash report provides more information about reportedly happened. It states that the crash occurred at 320 N. State St., near the Marina City towers and the House of Blues music venue. It lists the driver as the owner of the vehicle, a 2016 Infiniti QX60 SUV. She was cited for negligent driving, failure to reduce speed to prevent a crash, failing to stay in a lane, and driving while using a phone.
Responding officers arrived to find Chicago Fire Department technicians performing CPR on Schwab according to the report. The police spoke with three witnesses who said they been walking south on State with the victim and another woman, 27, who was also struck but was not seriously injured. They said the southbound SUV driver swerved off the the road and hit both women.
The driver directly struck Schwab, who fell over a fence owned by the Marina City building, the report states. The other woman was able to jump out of the way, and the motorist only struck her knees.
The driver told police that while she was driving south, "Her phone fell to the floor of the vehicle and she attempted to grab it and took her eyes off the road," according to the report. "When [the motorist] looked up, she believed she was going to strike the median in the center of the road and attempted to avoid it by veering to the right," at which point she struck the pedestrians on the sidewalks.
Schwab was pronounced shortly after she arrived at the hospital, the report states. The 27-year-old woman was also taken to Northwestern and was in good condition with minor bruising around her knees and a minor laceration on her right hand.
The driver was transported to Northwestern to have a blood sample taken, according to the report. Her SUV was towed.
A police spokesperson confirmed to Streetsblog that the driver is a police officer, and she was relieved of her police powers on Thursday. They said CPD is continuing to investigate the case.
Both victims were from Texas. According to an ABC Chicago report, Schwab was on a work trip for the educational company Amplify. According to a KSAT report, Schwab, a resident of Schertz, TX, went by the nickname "Tonie."
It's infuriating that an officer, who was entrusted to help keep the public safe, was reckless enough to take her eyes off the road while driving to pick up a phone, with tragic consequences.
Streetsblog Chicago Fatality Tracker
2023 Chicago pedestrian fatality cases
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.
- On December 7, 2023, an off-duty Chicago took her eyes off the road while driving to pick up her phone and swerved onto the sidewalk, killing Maria Schwab, 56.
- On November 28, 2023, a car driver struck and killed a female pedestrian in her late 40s at 7051 S. Western Avenue in Chicago Lawn.
- On October 6, 2023, a hit-and-run pick-up truck driver fatally struck 55-year-old man on the 1900 block of West Cermak in Pilsen.
- On October 5, 2023, An SUV driver fatally struck a man, 70, while making left turn at 57th Street and Pulaski Road in West Elsdon, and a sedan driver also struck the victim.
- On October 4, 2023, a turning trucker fatally struck Chauncie J. Lewis while he was lying on the sidewalk at the northeast corner of Congress Parkway and Kostner Avenue in West Rogers Park.
- On September 21, 2023, the southbound driver of a white SUV fatally struck Lidia Morales, 46, in the 5900 block of South King Drive, next to Washington Park.
- On September 18, 2023, the drivers of a sedan and a crossover SUV crashed at the intersection of Peterson and California avenues in West Ridge, and one of the vehicles veered towards an unidentified man on the sidewalk, killing him.
- On September 9, 2023, a hit-and-run sedan driver struck and killed a male pedestrian, 56, on the 500 block of South Independence Boulevard in Garfield Park.
- On August 23, 2023, an SUV driver with a suspended license failed to yield while making a turn from Hoyne Avenue onto Cermak Road and fatally struck Irene Celestino Devillino, 48, in the crosswalk.
- On August 20, 2023 a hit-and-run sedan driver fatally struck Ulysses Coleman, 38, in the 5200 block of North Avenue in Austin.
- On July 25, 2023 a hit-and-run driver killed pedestrian Soyfa Athamanah, 69, in 5100-block of N. Broadway in Uptown.
- On July 13, 2023, a man was fatally injured after he was dragged by a driver and he struck another motorist's car at 818 S. Pulaski Rd.
- On May 29, 2023, a hit-and-run driver killed Angela R. Mcknight, 49, crossing in the 1200 block of S. Independence Dr.
- On April 14, 2023, a Chrysler driver fatally struck a man, 59, on the 8800 block of South Cottage Grove Avenue in Chatham.
- On April 8, 2023, a turning sedan driver struck and killed Tracy Burton, 55, crossing the street at Laramie Avenue and Jackson Boulevard in Austin.
- On March 29,2023, a sedan driver struck and killed a male pedestrian, 46, on the 2000 block of North Cicero in Belmont Cragin.
- On March 25, 2023, a driver ran a stop sign at Washington and Green streets in the West Loop, fatally striking James Robert Thompson and fled the scene.
- On March 19, 2023, a left-turning van driver fatally struck Guo Ning Li, 78, in a crosswalk at 24th Street and Wentworth Avenue in Chinatown.
- On February 20, 2023, a right-turning FedEx step van driver ran over and killed Marsha Frankel, 72, in a crosswalk at Roosevelt Road and Wabash Avenue in the South Loop.
- On February 14, 2023, a CTA bus driver fatally struck Kevin Herrera, 28, at at 47th Street and Ashland Avenue in Back of the Yards.
- On February 7, 2023, a driver fatally struck Erik S. Wills, 49, on the 8800 block of South May Street in Gresham.
- On February 6, 2023, a motorist struck and killed Stevenson Mays, 59, on the 5600 block of South Racine Avenue in West Englewood and fled the scene.
- On January 27, 2023, two drivers collided on the 5000 block of West Washington Street in Austin and fatally struck Jennifer Kelleher, 25, and then both fled the scene.
- On January 26, 2023, an SUV driver fatally struck an unidentified woman, 93, on the 300 block of South Laramie Avenue in Austin and fled the scene.
- On January 10, 2023, a sedan driver struck and killed an unidentified man, 33, on the 3500 block of West Lake Street in East Garfield Park and fled the scene.
- On January 3, 2023, a cargo van driver fatally struck Jaime Cuadra, 47, as he was exiting a vehicle on 87th Street in front of the Red Line station.
- On January 2, 2023, a 45-year-old man was crossing Lafayette Avenue at 79th Street in Chatham when a speeding driver ran a red, fatally struck him, and fled the scene on foot.
- On January 2, 2023, near 72nd Street and Damen Avenue in West Englewood, Roy Lee, 21, was getting into his car when a driver swerved into oncoming lanes, fatally struck Lee and hit three parked cars, then fled the scene on foot.
2023 Chicago bike fatalities
- On October 23, 2023, an allegedly intoxicated car-driver fatally struck Donald Heggemann, 59, who was biking north at 5115 N. Damen Ave. in the Lincoln Square community area.
- On October 4, 2023, a sedan driver fatally struck Joshua Anleu, 16, as he biked through the intersection of Waveland and Long avenues in the Portage Park community.
- On June 24, 2023, a left-turning driver fatally struck Józef Strus, 67, who was riding a bike at 57th Street and Natchez Avenue in Garfield Ridge.
- On June 7, 2023, bike rider Ron Mendoza, 43, died from injuries sustained in a July 5 crash with a car driver at Wrightwood Avenue and Pulaski Road in Logan Square.
- On May 7, 2023, bike rider Rick Lomas was traveling south on California Avenue in Humboldt Park when he was was fatally struck by a 2005 Pontiac Grand Prix driver who left the scene.
In addition to editing Streetsblog Chicago, John writes about transportation and other topics for additional local publications. A Chicagoan since 1989, he enjoys exploring the city on foot, bike, bus, and 'L' train.
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