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Release records explaining why cabdriver’s killer wasn’t charged, lawsuit says

Anis Tungekar in the hospital before his death. | Provided

The family of a taxi driver who died from a kick to the head during a fight with an Uber driver is suing the Cook County state’s attorney’s office over the release of records that could help explain why charges weren’t filed in the case.

Prosecutors’ decision not to approve murder charges led to the Uber driver’s release from police custody and the driver’s subsequent fleeing to China, according to the lawsuit filed Thursday in Cook County Circuit Court.

The family of taxi driver Anis Tungekar — “outraged” by the lack of charges in the case — had asked for the records from prosecutors through a Freedom of Information Act request that, the lawsuit alleges, has been ignored.

A spokeswoman for the state’s attorney’s office did not respond to a request for comment Friday evening.

The Sept. 2 fight between the Uber driver, 30-year-old Lu Fangqi, and Tungekar took place in the West Loop, after a minor traffic dispute led Tungekar, 64, to follow Fangqi for roughly a block, the suit said.

Tensions escalated when Tungekar pulled out in front of Fangqi’s car and got out of his taxi near the intersection of Jefferson and Washington streets. As Tungekar walked back toward his cab after an argument, Fangqi got out of his car and roundhouse kicked Tungekar in the head, police said. The kick was recorded by nearby video surveillance.

Tungekar died two days later, and the Cook County medical examiner’s office subsequently ruled his death a homicide.

Chicago police concluded their investigation in November and recommended that prosecutors charge Fangqi with a felony, according to the suit. But the state’s attorney’s Felony Review Unit declined to approve charges and classified the case as an ongoing investigation.

Fangqi was released from custody, allowing him to leave the United States and flee to China, according to the suit and Chicago police.

The next month, police responded to a FOIA request from Tungekar’s family and provided files and videos connected to the case.

Police said they worked with the state’s attorney’s office to secure a warrant for Fangqi’s arrest, though that came after he had fled the country.

“Now that he’s in China … we have to work with the state department on that,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. “And currently there is no extradition” between the United States and China.

In response to a separate FOIA request from the family — the one under contention in the lawsuit — the state’s attorney’s office only provided the same files police had already given the family and claimed they couldn’t release more information because the case was an ongoing investigation, the lawsuit said.

Despite the driver being subject to arrest if he returns to the country, the family’s attorney, Michael Gallagher, said his clients believe the opportunity has been missed to see justice in Tungekar’s death.

The state’s attorney’s office “allowed [Fangqi] to go free and escape prosecution,” Gallagher said.

The suit accuses the state’s attorney’s office of violating the Freedom of Information Act and seeks the court to force prosecutors to produce the records and pay unspecified damages.