William O’Neil sat at the back of traffic court in Joliet on Thursday, glaring at the Illinois State Police trooper who wrote his son a $1,500 ticket for speeding.
On Sept. 27, O’Neil was suffering from his second heart attack in four years. His son was racing him from their home in Lemont to a hospital in Downers Grove when the trooper pulled them over.
O’Neil still can’t understand why the trooper didn’t let them keep driving to Good Samaritan Hospital, where he was previously treated.
Instead, the trooper called an ambulance that took O’Neil to another hospital.
A video obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times shows the trooper repeatedly suggested that O’Neil was faking a heart attack.
After the ambulance left, the trooper handed O’Neil’s son the ticket and told him to slow down.
“I’m still angry,” O’Neil said after a hearing for his son, Michael O’Neil, in the Will County courthouse.
In a deal that Michael O’Neil made with the prosecutor, his fine was reduced from $1,500 to $175 for driving 82 mph in a 55 mph speed zone.
That gave his father some relief.
“Common sense prevailed with the justice system,” William O’Neil said. “But the state police did not address that fact that this trooper’s attitude was terrible.”
O’Neil and the trooper didn’t speak during the hearing. And the trooper wasn’t called to testify.
Even though O’Neil remains outraged about the traffic stop on Interstate 355, the state police have said the trooper did nothing wrong.
Troopers are discouraged from escorting civilian vehicles in medical emergencies. People in O’Neil’s situation are encouraged to call 911, according to the state police.
The trooper was correct to call for an ambulance, a state police spokesman said. And the standard practice is for fire and emergency services to take a patient to the nearest hospital.
Still, Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital, where O’Neil was taken, is about 9½ miles from the location of the traffic stop. And Good Samaritan Hospital, where he wanted to go, is about 6 ½ miles away, according to Google maps.
The Sun-Times obtained a video of the traffic stop through a public records request. There was a dashboard camera in the trooper’s car, and he wore a microphone.
The video shows the trooper activate his lights and stop Michael O’Neil at 10:13 p.m. on northbound I-355 south of 75th Avenue.
William O’Neil, sitting in the passenger seat, apparently tells the trooper he’s having a heart attack, although what he says is inaudible. The trooper immediately asks O’Neil if he wants an ambulance.
“No, no, we’re just going to Good Samaritan,” O’Neil says, adding, “I mean, we can get there much faster than an ambulance.”
A few minutes later, the trooper asks, “Why didn’t you guys just go to Silver Cross?” That hospital in New Lenox is closer to O’Neil’s home than Good Samaritan.
“I’m a patient at Good Samaritan,” O’Neil responds.
The trooper calls for an ambulance, saying, “One of the passengers is having chest pain.”
O’Neil asks whether his son is going to receive a ticket and the trooper says, “Yeah, he was going 82 in a 55.”
“I can’t believe you’re giving him a ticket for this!” O’Neil says.
About five minutes after the stop, O’Neil gets out of the car, slowly pacing.
“You want to stay somewhere, you know, if you fall over?” the trooper says and asks O’Neil to stand behind his Buick.
A minute later, the trooper says, “You don’t look like you’re having a heart attack to me.”
O’Neil raises his hands in exasperation.
“I don’t know what to tell you,” he says.
The trooper responds, “I don’t know if you were just telling me that [he was having a heart attack] because you were speeding or what, but I’m kind of confused right now.”
The ambulance arrives 12 minutes after the stop and leaves for Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital nine minutes later.
Finally, the trooper walks to the car to hand 30-year-old Michael O’Neil his $1,500 ticket.
The last thing the trooper says is, “OK, slow down, OK? Speed limit here is 55 right here.”
William O’Neil was treated for his heart attack and underwent surgery the next day. He received a stent to fix a blockage in an artery, hospital records show.
On Thursday, the 60-year-old purchasing manager said he’s feeling much better.
“But I’d still like to know where his head was,” he said of the trooper.