Chicago to pay $15M over woman's death in police pursuit crash
The council approved the settlement with the family of Guadalupe Francisco-Martinez when a police cruiser ran a red light and slammed into her SUV
By Don Babwin
CHICAGO — The Chicago City Council approved a settlement on Wednesday that will pay $15 million to the family of a woman who was killed when a police cruiser ran a red light and slammed into her SUV after officers allegedly ignored repeated orders to end their high-speed pursuit of a carjacking suspect.
Without discussion, the council approved the settlement with the family of Guadalupe Francisco-Martinez, a mother of six who was 37 years old when she died. The move was widely expected after its finance committee agreed with the city's law department that the wrongful death lawsuit should be settled rather than allow it to go to trial and risk having to pay an even greater amount.
"There will be enormous sympathy for the family of (Francisco-Martinez), who endured such a tragic, tragic event,” the law department's counsel, Mimi Ruether, said before committee unanimously authorized the settlement on Monday, the Chicago Tribune reported.
If the case had gone to trial, a jury would have been presented evidence outlined in the lawsuit, including a number of radio dispatches in which the pursuing officers were ordered to end their chase before the crash. Further, the lawsuit contended that the officer who struck Francisco-Martinez's vehicle was driving well over the speed limit and disregarded a red traffic light at the intersection where the collision occurred.
The crash, which prompted revisions of the police department's vehicular pursuit policy, occurred on the city's northwest side on the night of June 3, 2020. Francisco-Martinez was coming home from her first day on a new job when, with the green light, she drove into an intersection where the officer slammed into her vehicle with a marked police cruiser.
The driver of the vehicle that police were chasing remains in the Cook County Jail, where he is being held on $1 million bail on charges of first-degree murder, vehicular hijacking and other counts.
The department came under criticism for that chase as well as others that ended with crashes. Last year, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that a “pursuit litigation analysis” prepared for Mayor Lori Lightfoot concluded that 180 out of 270 police chases in 2019 ended in crashes, including crashes in which a total of eight people died.
The city is defending itself in another lawsuit filed by the family of an 84-year-old retired teacher, Verona Gunn, who in was killed in 2019 when a police cruiser crashed into a police van in an intersection and careened into a car in which she was a passenger.