CHICAGO -- An 84-year-old woman's death in a traffic collision involving two Chicago police vehicles last month was a direct result of both a lack of officer training and "recklessly" speeding along city streets, relatives of the woman said Tuesday.
"We understand that our mom is dead today because of poor policies within the Chicago Police Department (and) she's dead because there is a lack of proper training when it comes to police and how they are recklessly driving through our communities," her son, Dwight Gunn, said at a news conference.
The family showed a video of the crash that killed his mother, Verona Gunn and discussed a lawsuit the family filed against the city and the two police officers Monday. The news conference comes a day after The Associated Press obtained exclusively surveillance video of the two police vehicles colliding at an intersection and crashing into a stationary car in which the retired teacher was riding the night of May 25. Two other people in the car were also injured.
In the lawsuit, the family contends that Gunn's death was the direct result of the officers' decision to race "at unconscionably high speeds through the densely populated Austin neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago..." It contends that the officers were not racing in pursuit of a suspect but to assist officers at a "potential crime scene."
According to the lawsuit, "the level of inherent danger created by the speed at which they were travelling outweighed the necessity to arrive as soon as possible at a crime scene." Further, the lawsuit contends that the officers showed an "utter disregard for the safety" of the pedestrians and other motorists in the area at the time — a practice that it says is "condoned" by the city.
The video of the street corner show several vehicles stopped or slowing down as the sound of sirens grows louder. Suddenly, a marked police van smashes into the side of an unmarked police SUV, sending at least one of them into the Toyota in which Gunn was riding.
Though it is not mentioned in the lawsuit, the family's attorney, Andrew Stroth, suggested that Gunn's death could have been related to the decision by the police department to flood the streets with officers during the Memorial Day weekend in an effort to stem an anticipated surge of violent crime.
"Part of the reaction by police that weekend was based on the surge of officers," Stroth told the AP. "It resulted in a complete overreaction by officers responding to calls."
The city's law department declined to comment on the lawsuit.