Jury awards $33.5M for fatal Dolton police car chase

Two men were injured, one fatally, in the 2016 chase. The verdict is the largest ever awarded by Cook County jury in a police misconduct case, lawyers for the plaintiffs say.

SHARE Jury awards $33.5M for fatal Dolton police car chase
Sabrina Wright, mother of Duane Dunlap, left, and Aja Seats, right listen to their attorneys announce the verdict in a police misconduct case Thursday afternoon at the offices of Loevy & Loevy Attorneys.

Sabrina Wright, mother of Duane Dunlap (left), and Aja Seats, sister of John Kyles, listen to their attorneys announce the verdict in a police misconduct case Thursday afternoon at the office of Loevy & Loevy Attorneys.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

A Cook County jury late Wednesday handed down against the village of Dolton what an attorney said was the largest personal injury judgment in the county, awarding more than $33.5 million in damages in connection with a 2016 police car chase that ended with a fatal crash.

John Kyles and Duane Dunlap were passengers in a car driven by a third man, who sped off when police in the south suburb tried to pull over the vehicle for rolling through a stop sign. During the ensuing chase, police vehicles sped faster than 80 miles per hour and drove through multiple stop signs before the car crashed.

Kyles died at the scene and Dunlap suffered brain injuries that will require “permanent residential care,” attorney Jon Loevy said at his West Loop office Thursday at a press conference with the men’s families.

“I miss John so much. No amount of money could bring him back,” said Aja Seats, Kyles’ sister. “I appreciate the jury holding the village of Dolton accountable for my brother’s death.”

Over a weeklong trial, lawyers for Kyles’ and Dunlap’s families argued the village offered poor training and had a history of allowing officers to engage in reckless high-speed pursuits despite numerous wrecks, Loevy said.

The verdict was the largest ever awarded by a Cook County jury, Loevy said.

“This chase was unnecessary and tragic,” Loevy said. “It didn’t have to happen.”

Kyles’ estate will receive $10 million and the Dunlap family will get $23.5 million.

The lawsuit stated that one of the officers involved in the chase, Sgt. Lewis Lacey, had been involved in six previous chases that resulted in injuries, including one that took place on the same stretch of Greenwood Road as the one that claimed Kyles’ life.

Village records showed Lacey had filed a workman’s compensation claim against the village over injuries suffered in a wreck and had totaled multiple police vehicles, the lawsuit stated.

A second officer involved in the chase was 22-year-old probationary officer Ryan Perez, who had been involved in four high-speed chases during just 11 months on the job, according to the lawsuit.

In all, Dolton police had been involved in 50 chases from 2011 to 2016, half of which caused injuries, property damage or fatalities, the lawsuit states.

Village officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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