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$1.3M settlement for police pursuit-turned-deadly

Donovan Turnage

Chicago taxpayers will spend nearly $1.3 million to compensate a woman whose 11-year-old son was ejected from a car and killed after colliding with a vehicle being pursued at high speeds by Chicago Police.

The questionable police pursuit-turned-deadly occurred shortly after noon on Dec. 21, 2013.

Donovan Turnage was on his way to the barber shop with his father and brother when a minivan allegedly carjacked by Rockie Douglas ran a red light and crashed into the Turnage family’s SUV at Halsted and Garfield Boulevard.

Rockie Douglas | Chicago Police
Rockie Douglas | Chicago Police

Donovan, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was ejected from the car and killed. Three police vehicles were chasing the mini-van through a residential neighborhood at speeds of up to 60 m.p.h., twice the legal limit.

Annette Turnage subsequently filed a lawsuit accusing Chicago Police of causing the crash that killed her son by conducting a reckless and unlawful pursuit through a congested commercial and residential area.

The plaintiffs argued that a police chase that began when Douglas took off after police claimed they saw him selling drugs in front of a known drug house never should have been initiated in the first place.

That’s because they claim it failed the so-called “balancing test” officers are supposed to use to determine whether a pursuit is more dangerous than letting the offender get away.

In addition, attorneys representing the Turnage family argued that police policy limits the number of cars in a pursuit to two vehicles and there were three, two of them marked, the other unmarked.

Finally, the plaintiffs contended—and had third-party witnesses to back it up—that none of the three police vehicles had lights and sirens on during the pursuit. That’s another violation of police policy.

The latest in a long line of settlements stemming from police pursuits that end in the death or injury of innocent bystanders is on the agenda for Monday’s meeting of the City Council’s Finance Committee.

At that time, aldermen are also expected to approve three settlements involving lesser amounts:

  • $200,000 to a man who spent 11 months in prison while awaiting trial on charges that he shot a gun from a front porch on New Year’s Eve, 2013. David Purnell denied the charge, but couldn’t post bond. He said he offered to be tested for gunshot residue, but police refused. He was subsequently acquitted of the charges.
  • $200,000 to an inebriated woman who suffered spinal damage after falling down a flight of stairs at her home in April, 2012. When paramedics arrived, they put her into a chair without a cervical collar and brought her to the emergency room. The woman is now permanently disabled. She blames paramedics for failing to stabilize her neck.
  • $180,000 to a schizophrenic man from Milwaukee shot by Chicago Police who saw him drinking on the public way while on routine patrol. The man reportedly stopped taking his medication while visiting his aunt in Chicago. When police tried to question Alonzo Smith, he reportedly ran into the aunt’s house, where officers chased and attempted to Taser him after Smith told them he had a weapon. When Smith came out the front door, an officer on the front porch shot him. Smith was found with a knife, box-cutter and letter-opener.