The mother of a 13-month-old boy fatally run down by a vehicle fleeing police earlier this month held a tearful news conference with her attorney on Thursday, a day after suing the city in her child’s death.
“My baby was innocent. He should not have died,” was all Shatrell McComb, the mother of Dillan Harris, managed to say before being overcome by emotion.
McComb is suing 20 unnamed officers involved in the chase, alleging they disregarded orders to stop the pursuit that ultimately claimed her son’s life. The suit was filed Wednesday in Cook County Circuit Court on behalf of Dillan Harris.
“We all desire good policing, but this is a chase that should have been stopped,” attorney Antonio Romanucci said at the the news conference.
He pointed to a map showing the distance from the shooting that sparked the police chase and the bus stop where Dillan was struck, saying it was about 3 1/2 miles.
“Police were not able to apprehend [the suspect] and they continued to chase,” Romanucci said. “It’s like, escalation continues the escalation.”
Romanucci also criticized Chicago Police for what he called their pattern of “deflecting blame on everybody but themselves …somebody had better step up and take responsibility.”
Supt. Garry McCarthy, “won’t take responsibility even though he should.”
About 1:45 p.m. July 11, McComb was standing at a bus stop near 63rd and Ellis with Dillan in a stroller and his two older sisters close by. They were heading to 63rd Street Beach.
Meanwhile, officers were chasing a vehicle driven by Antoine Watkins, who was also named as a defendant. Police say the vehicle was fleeing a fatal shooting that occurred minutes earlier in the 7700 block of South Kingston and left 22-year-old Marvin “Capo” Carr dead.
According to the suit, the pursuing officers reached speeds of 60 to 70 mph as they chased Watkins.
The pursuit eventually led to 63rd Street. Watkins, driving westbound, jumped the curb and ran over Dillan as the child was in the stroller, dragging his body into a nearby vacant lot, the suit stated.
“Shatrell McComb watched her 13-month-old son get run over by Antoine Watkins’s vehicle, and then saw him covered in blood and he lied on the ground motionless,” the suit stated.
Dillan was pronounced dead at University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital at 2:45 p.m., according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
McComb alleges that, had the officers chasing Watkins heeded their orders, her son would still be alive.
“Upon information and belief, the Office of Emergency Management and Communications and/or Chicago Police Department Supervisors allegedly instructed Doe Officers 1-20 in pursuit of Antoine Watkins’s vehicle to stop the chase,” the suit stated.
The officers “recklessly engaged in a high-speed chase which caused the vehicle pursued to strike Dillan Harris,” the suit stated.
The City of Chicago was also named as a defendant.
In an emailed statement Wednesday night, Chicago Law Department spokesman John Holden said the fault for Dillan’s death lays solely with Watkins.
“We have not had an opportunity to review this suit and therefore cannot comment in detail. However, while we are deeply saddened by this tragic event, there is no evidence to suggest that anyone other than Antoine Watkins is responsible for this incident,” Holden said.
According to the Chicago Police Department’s directive concerning pursuits, a chase can be started only if “the necessity to immediately apprehend the fleeing suspect outweighs the level of inherent danger created by a motor vehicle pursuit.”
The directive goes on to say that “all members involved in or supervising a motor vehicle pursuit must be prepared to justify their actions.”
The six-count lawsuit alleges wrongful death/willful and wanton conduct and intentional infliction of emotional distress against the city and 20 officers. It also alleges negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress against Watkins, who is currently being held without bail at the Cook County Jail.
The suit seeks more than $300,000 in damages.
Contributing: Ashlee Rezin