Ill. woman hurt in cop chase could get $3 million

The passenger suffered traumatic injuries from crash

Chicago Sun-Times

CHICAGO — Chicago would pay $3 million to a young woman who suffered permanent brain damage when she was the passenger in a car struck by a stolen van involved in an unauthorized police chase, under a settlement advanced Monday by a City Council committee.

The accident occurred around 11:30 p.m. Aug. 10, 2004, when Regina Varela was 17. She was in a car broadsided at Addison and Kedzie by a stolen GMC van that ran a red light while being chased by Chicago Police.

A new pursuit policy that followed the 1999 deaths of unarmed civilians LaTanya Haggerty and Robert Russ on the same summer weekend requires police officers to get supervisory approval before initiating a chase and to break it off once the pursued vehicle starts disobeying traffic control signals.

In the 2004 chase, the officers never alerted their supervisors.

The police car was going more than 55 mph in a 25 mph zone. The van struck the car with such force, Varela's body was thrown out of the car and landed 40 feet away.

She suffered a traumatic brain injury, a fractured collarbone, lacerated liver and kidney contusion. She was placed in an induced coma for 48 hours and hospitalized for 16 days. She suffered from learning disabilities before the accident. But, the injuries left her unable to hold anything more than a menial job.

The officers denied they were involved in an unauthorized chase. They maintained that they were parked and idling just a block away from the accident scene when they spotted the stolen van, typed its license plates into their computer and activated their lights and sirens.

A passenger in the van and a witness on the street told a different story. They claimed that the chase was going on for eight blocks. The call for an ambulance was placed at 11:36 p.m., a full six minutes after the officers received word the plates were stolen.

Copyright 2010 Chicago Sun-Times

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