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Proposed $2 million settlement tied to yet another police chase turned deadly

The settlement is the largest of several tied to allegations of police wrongdoing on Monday’s Finance Committee agenda. It goes to David Brown, whose wife was fatally struck by a car whose driver was fleeing police.

Curtis Pugh was charged with fatally hitting a woman with a vehicle Thursday in the 7900 block of South Lafayette.
Curtis Pugh was charged with fatally hitting a woman with a vehicle in the 7900 block of South Lafayette in May 2018.
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Chicago taxpayers will spend $2 million to compensate the family of a 55-year-old woman struck and killed while walking on a Chatham sidewalk in 2018 by a vehicle leading police on a high-speed chase after fleeing a traffic stop.

The settlement is the largest of several tied to allegations of police wrongdoing on the agenda for Monday’s meeting of the City Council’s Finance Committee.

It goes to David Brown, whose wife, Julia Lynn Callaway, was mowed down in May 2018 during a crash so violent her body was tossed 50 feet into the air.

Brown, minister of Shiloh Baptist Church, was to take his wife shopping for Mother’s Day. Instead, he was forced to bury her.

It started shortly before 6 p.m., when officers claimed to have smelled a “strong odor of cannabis” coming from Curtis Pugh’s Nissan as he drove in the 8000 block of South Evans.

When officers pulled up to the vehicle, Pugh allegedly sped off with two passengers inside, swerving through traffic and running stop signs and red lights before driving onto a sidewalk in the 7900 block of South Lafayette, striking Callaway.

According to Cook County prosecutors, police ended their initial pursuit of Pugh after two blocks. But a short time later, the Nissan was spotted speeding west on 76th Street.

Police followed the Nissan onto the Dan Ryan Expressway, where surveillance cameras captured Pugh speeding southbound, cutting in and out of traffic, then exiting at 79th Street.

Pugh’s vehicle then sped through a red light and swerved to avoid other vehicles before jumping the curb and onto the sidewalk, striking Callaway and as well as a 31-year-old man who refused medical treatment at the scene.

The Nissan didn’t stop. Pugh continued several blocks until crashing, according to prosecutors. Pugh and his passengers fled on foot. A police helicopter tracked Pugh, and officers on the ground arrested him.

Pugh acknowledged leading police on the chase, but said he thought he had enough space to avoid hitting the two pedestrians. He claimed he didn’t even know he had struck anyone until one of his passengers told him.

Pugh also told authorities he had been in similar chases with police, but always got away.

Curtis Pugh | Chicago Police
Curtis Pugh, then 22, of Matteson, was charged with first-degree murder as well as drug and traffic offenses in connection with the death of Julia Callaway.
Chicago Police

Police found 19.3 grams of suspected crack cocaine with an estimated street value of $2,345, police records show.

That led to a charge of manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance in addition to the murder charge, an aggravated fleeing and eluding police charge and a charge of leaving the scene of a deadly accident. He was also cited for various traffic violations. He remains incarcerated for convictions related to the incident.

Brown could not be reached for comment. His attorney Michael Ditore did not return repeated phone calls.

Over the years, Chicago taxpayers have shelled out millions to innocent pedestrians, motorists and passengers killed or injured during police pursuits gone bad — even though vehicular chase policy has been overhauled repeatedly.

The two most costly of those incidents happened on the same weekend in June 1999.

Unarmed African-American civilians LaTanya Haggerty, 26, and Robert Russ, 22, were shot to death by officers after separate police pursuits, touching off a summer filled with protests about alleged police brutality.

Haggerty was a passenger in a car driven by a friend that police stopped at 89th and Cottage Grove, then chased through the South Side, even after a supervisor ordered them to stop. The driver fled the first police stop fearing an arrest for drugs in his car.

Then-Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration subsequently agreed to pay $18 million —triple the amount it had ever paid to settle a wrongful death case — the family of Haggerty, a computer analyst shot after the second stop by an officer who said she thought she saw a shiny, silvery object she mistook for a gun in Haggerty’s hand.

Early the next morning, police officers chased Russ, a former Northwestern University football player ten days short of graduation, for three miles down Lake Shore Drive and the Dan Ryan Expy. after Russ refused their order to pull over for driving erratically.

Officer Von Watts IV smashed the tinted rear driver’s side window of Russ’ car before his gun accidentally discharged after Russ grabbed it, according to an internal investigation.

A jury subsequently ordered the city to pay $9.6 million to Russ’ son.

In 2004, another $3 million settlement was paid to a young woman who suffered permanent brain damage when she was the passenger in a car broadsided at Addison and Kedzie by a stolen GMC van that ran a red light while being chased by Chicago Police.

Eight years later, Chicago taxpayers were on the hook again — this time for $1.36 million —to compensate a man who suffered severe leg injuries in 2009 after his car was hit head-on by a vehicle being chased by officers who had been ordered to stop the pursuit.

In 2019 came another settlement stemming from a police chase — for $4.9 million. It went to the family of 27-year-old Chequita Adams, who was killed in June, 2017 in a high-speed chase that also killed off-duty Chicago Police Officer Taylor Clark.

The settlements on Monday’s agenda also include $250,000 for Michael Williamson, who was framed, incarcerated, then acquitted of charges fabricated by a Chicago police officer who shot and severely injured Williamson.

On. Jan. 1, 2014, Williamson was serving in U.S. Navy and attending a New Year’s Eve party at 144 W. 105th St. while home on leave.

When another partier went to the back porch and fired a gun into the air to celebrate the new year, CPD Officer Wilfredo Ortiz ran to the back of the residence and fired 11 shots from his handgun at the rear porch and through the open back door, severely injuring Williams and two his siblings.

Williamson’s lawsuit claims that, in an attempt to cover his tracks, Ortiz “fabricated evidence” and falsely claimed Williamson had a handgun pointed at the officer and refused a verbal command from Ortiz to drop the gun.

The lawsuit accused Ortiz of having “fabricated police reports, signed false criminal complaints and provided perjured and false testimony to prosecutors” to support felony charges against Williamson.

In 2016, Williamson was found not guilty of all criminal charges initiated by Ortiz.

Another settlement — for $175,000— tied to allegations of police wrongdoing goes to Lavelle Taylor, who claims he was framed for a fatal 1996 shooting by his brother.

Taylor’s lawsuit accuses a CPD detective — one with a long, documented history of fabricating evidence and coercing confessions — of coaxing a person at the shooting scene to falsely accuse Taylor of passing the firearm to his brother before the shooting.

The lawsuit accused the city of “turning a blind eye” to Detective James O’Brien’s repeated misconduct and encouraging a “code of silence” among CPD officers. Mayor Rahm Emanuel famously acknowledged that code of silence during the furor following the court-ordered release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video.