Two people died and four Chicago Police officers were injured in a collision at the end of a high-speed chase that stretched nearly 15 miles, from the scene of a robbery in suburban Tinley Park and into the Far South Side.
The hot pursuit lasted some 20 minutes, with robbery suspects racing down south suburban highways and swerving through a quiet residential section of West Pullman.
Friday afternoon, 71-year-old Michael Wells stood unsteadily outside his house at Union and West 124th streets. He stared at the wreckage that marked the end of the chase, strewn across his front yard. An overturned sedan rested on the grass; a crumpled, unmarked police SUV sat in the ruins of the wheelchair ramp he had used to get to his front door.
“I thought somebody had bombed the house,” said Wells of the noise that disturbed the late-morning calm in the neighborhood. “I looked out the window and police was everywhere.”
Witnesses said the sedan had been at the head of a column of police vehicles from multiple jurisdictions when it was rammed from behind by a police SUV as it raced through the neighborhood. Wells’ wife, Maxine, said she had just parked her van on the street in front of the house when she heard the sirens and turned to see the sedan speeding at her at the head of a parade of squad cars. Fearing police would begin shooting at the car, Wells said she ducked down just an instant before the crash.
“I’m blessed. I could’ve been hurt. He could have hit the van, and I was pressed up against the van,” she said. “I was scared. Everything was flying and stuff.”
Two people in the sedan were killed, police said. Ronald Arrington, 22, was taken to Stroger Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 12:39 p.m., according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. He lived near the crash site, in the 12400 block of South Union.
Jimmy Malone, 26, was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 12:28 p.m., authorities said. His home address was not known Saturday afternoon.
Autopsies Saturday found that both Arrington and Malone died from multiple injuries suffered in a motor vehicle collision, and their deaths were ruled accidents, the medical examiner’s office said.
Two other men in the vehicle suffered non-life threatening injuries and were taken into custody; all four officers in the SUV were injured, police said.
“It was a pretty horrific crash,” First Deputy Supt. John Escalante said during a news conference at the scene.
The chase started in south suburban Tinley Park, where police say the sedan was the getaway vehicle in a robbery of a fast-food restaurant.
At 10:56 a.m., the manager of an Arby’s at West 191st Street and Harlem Avenue was confronted in the parking lot as she was heading to make a bank deposit, Tinley Park Police Chief Steve Neubauer said. No weapons were displayed, but the woman struggled with the suspects and suffered minor injuries.
Tinley Park police responded to the robbery and broadcast a description of the suspect’s gold sedan, Neubauer said. Illinois State Police responded “almost immediately” that they were behind the vehicle on Interstate 57, heading toward Chicago.
Chicago Police joined the chase and the unmarked SUV and the suspects’ sedan collided at 124th Street and Union. A woman who said she was a relative of one of the men fatally injured in the crash said several of the suspects in the vehicle lived only a few houses down from the crash scene.
Regina Raines was driving near South Halsted and 127th and said she saw a few blocks of the chase moments before it ended. The gold sedan was racing east on West 127th Street, pursued by “at least 20” squad cars from Chicago and other jurisdictions, Raines said. When the sedan approached the end of a line of cars stopped at the intersection, it veered onto the sidewalk, she said.
“At that point, I think they should end the chase. You’re getting into a neighborhood,” Raines said. “I don’t know what (crime) they were running from, but I don’t know what could be more dangerous than driving around like that in a neighborhood. They were running, but the police was behind them.”