Family of 84-year-old woman killed during police pursuit says city hasn’t responded to a lawsuit — three years after the case was filed

Verona Gunn died from her injuries on May 25, 2019, after her car was hit by an unmarked Chicago police cruiser.

SHARE Family of 84-year-old woman killed during police pursuit says city hasn’t responded to a lawsuit — three years after the case was filed
Derrick Gunn on Monday discusses the lawsuit filed in connection with the death of his mother, Verona Gunn, an 84-year-old bystander killed in 2019 after a Chicago Police Department vehicle crashed into Gunn’s vehicle,

Derrick Gunn on Monday discusses the lawsuit filed in connection with the death of his mother, Verona Gunn, an 84-year-old bystander killed in 2019 after a Chicago Police Department vehicle crashed into Gunn’s vehicle,

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Three years after two Chicago police vehicles collided on the West Side, killing an 84-year-old retired teacher, lawyers for the woman’s family say the city has done nothing to try to resolve a lawsuit filed in response to the tragedy.

“This was the type of event that never should have happened,” attorney Antonio Romanucci said to reporters Monday at a church on the West Side. “These are two police vehicles that crashed into each other at an intersection because neither one was obeying the orders of the Chicago Police Department when it comes to police pursuits.”

Surveillance video from May 25, 2019, shows a Chicago police van slam into an unmarked police cruiser at the intersection of Division Street and Laramie Avenue, causing the cruiser to hit a stationary blue Toyota in which Verona Gunn was a passenger.

Gunn, a retired Chicago Public Schools first-grade teacher, was in the back seat of the Toyota that was waiting for emergency vehicles to pass when the crash happened. Three of Gunn’s relatives in the car were also injured.

Attorneys for Gunn filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in Cook County in June 2019, naming the city of Chicago and the two officers driving the vehicles that night. They are referred to only as John Doe 1 and 2.

The Gunn family attorneys say vehicles violated regulations that call for officers in such situations, especially ones that do not involve a pursuit, to slow down at intersections to ensure they can proceed safely.

Audio obtained by The Associated Press of police radio transmissions before Gunn was fatally injured reveals that a dispatcher told responding officers over and over to reduce their speed because the suspect had been disarmed.

“Slow down,” she says firmly. She repeats that order at least five more times over two minutes, according to the AP.

On Monday, Gunn’s family members said they can’t understand how the city could let the case drag on for so long. One of Gunn’s sons, Derrick Gunn, described his mother as the “epitome of a strong woman.”

“I’ve seen her attributes through faith and love make people better in this city, and I’m totally flummoxed how the city can be so callous,” Derrick Gunn said.

Though the Civilian Office of Police Accountability announced in July 2021 that it had concluded its investigation into the crash and had forwarded it — as well as recommendations — to Supt. David Brown, those have not been made public.

The police oversight office also hasn’t made public any possible recommendations for discipline for the officers in this case, Romanucci said.

“We’re calling on the city of Chicago, COPA, the superintendent [to] release the reports, complete the reports. Get the job done so that we can reach accountability. And talk to us about this case. Don’t ignore something where you can see that the liability is absolutely defined,” Romanucci said.

A spokeswoman for the city’s Law Department said Monday that the department doesn’t comment on ongoing litigation.

Jennifer Rottner, a spokeswoman for COPA, said the organization will post a “summary report of the investigation” online “upon the conclusion of the superintendent’s review or, if applicable, following service of disciplinary charges by the Department of Law on any involved officer.”

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