A Cook County jury has awarded $4.5 million to a woman who suffered horrific injuries as a result of a Chicago police chase that her attorneys say clearly violated department policy.
Following a two-week trial, the jury deliberated Friday and returned the judgment in favor of Shaunte Hill, who said she feels grateful to be alive after the crash that forever changed her life.
The pursuit and ensuing crash happened the night of July 13, 2016, at the intersection of South Keefe and South South Chicago avenues.
“I was approaching the intersection and I was hit – and I woke up 13 days later in the hospital,” Hill said. “I just happened to be driving, wrong place, wrong time.”
Minutes before the crash and blocks away, an officer can be heard on police radio transmission calling in the license plate of a silver Kia, finding out that the car had previously been reported stolen. Radio traffic indicates the squad car followed the vehicle without its lights activated for nearly five minutes as it turned from East 78th Street and headed northwest on South Chicago Avenue.
Dashcam video shows that police attempted to stop the Kia, which began to speed off. But shortly thereafter, the dashcam video documenting the pursuit suddenly shuts off.
“There’s no doubt that it was manually turned off,” one of Hill’s attorneys Marty Lucas said. “Who turned it off, how it got turned off, I honestly cannot tell you, but we do know from testimony from police personnel that it had to be manually deactivated.”
A red-light camera at 71st Street and South Chicago Avenue captures the car speeding through the stoplight, with six police vehicles following closely behind. Officers radio in that the car had blown the red light and 12 seconds later, they’re ordered to terminate the pursuit.
Lucas noted that on the date of the crash, the Chicago Police Department’s general order prohibited the continuation of any pursuits for a stolen car once that vehicle runs a red light.
“This was a police pursuit that was a disaster from the beginning. It never should have started,” Lucas said. “At the very beginning there was reckless driving both on the part of the fleeing vehicle as well as by the police.”
Six seconds after being given the order to stop the chase, the officers acknowledge that they are terminating – but the crash happens just two seconds later.
“You have to remember that seconds matter in these things. If you get this car to slow down even five miles per hour for two seconds, this collision never happens,” Lucas said.
Hill’s car was broadsided by the fleeting suspects. She had to be cut from her car, was in a coma for nearly two weeks, underwent 13 surgeries and was hospitalized for two months.
“I was a happy young lady before the accident,” Hill said. “Once this happened, I fell into depression, was having anxiety, panic attacks, can’t do the things I could do with my kids before, that I was doing before – I can’t do them now. And then the pain that I’m having.”
She sued the City of Chicago and a jury on Friday awarded her $4.5 million. At 38 years old, she’s looking at continued medical treatment, including a hip replacement. She said she’s never gotten an apology from police or anyone from the city for the crash that even their own rules dictate never should have happened.
“It’s a part of your jobs. You’re supposed to know these orders,” she said.
The Chicago Department of Law did not respond to request for comment. When asked why the dashcam was turned off, if any officers involved have faced any discipline for this incident or if they had any other comment on the case, CPD also did not respond.