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‘Avid cyclist’ critically hurt in Avondale hit-and-run was struck by carjacked SUV

Alexandra Betzel, an employee of Chicago’s PBS affiliate WTTW, was biking home Feb. 10 when she was hit by a Buick Enclave in the 3500 block of North Kimball. Police said the SUV had been carjacked four days earlier about a half mile from the scene of the crash.

Alexandra Betzel, described by her partner as an avid cyclist, was struck by a carjacked SUV earlier this month in Avondale.
GoFundMe

Chicago police are searching for a carjacked SUV that ran over an “avid cyclist” last week in the Avondale neighborhood, leaving her critically injured.

On Wednesday, police released a clearer photo of a dark gray or black Buick Enclave that was involved in the hit-and-run crash Feb. 10 in the 3500 block of North Kimball Avenue.

About 2:20 p.m., the driver of the Enclave and the bicyclist, a 31-year-old woman, were both northbound in the 3500 block of North Kimball Avenue when the woman fell to the ground and the SUV ran her over, police said.

Surveillance photo of a Buick SUV whose driver is wanted in the critical injuring of a woman riding a bicycle at Kimball Avenue and Addison Street, about 2:20 p.m. Feb. 10.
Chicago police

The Enclave didn’t stop after the crash and took off eastbound on Addison, police said. The cyclist, later identified in an online fundraiser as Alexandra Betzel, was taken to Illinois Masonic Medical Center in critical condition.

By Thursday night, the fundraising campaign — that described Betzel as “an avid cyclist, always in the most protective gear and adhering to the rules of the road” — had raised more than $37,000 of its $50,000 goal.

On the GoFundMe page, her partner Megan Brennan noted that Betzel “was biking home from a quick errand at Addison and Kimball when a driver hit her, ran her over and drove away.”

“The driver was heading north on Kimball and decided to turn right from the center lane to cut off cars, hitting Alex and running her over with their tires,” Brennan said.

During an interview Thursday night, Betzel’s father said she remained on a ventilator in the intensive care unit after suffering a litany of serious injuries, including nine broken ribs, a collapsed lung and a fractured eye socket. As his daughter fights to recover, Shaun Betzel noted her family and other loved ones “just want to see whomever did this pay for it.”

Police said the same Enclave involved in the crash was stolen the afternoon of Feb. 6 in a carjacking in the 3300 block of West Belmont, which is about a half mile from the scene of the collision.

A 36-year-old woman was in a parking lot next to the Enclave when the female carjacker entered the driver’s seat, police said. When the woman tried to get into her SUV — which still had her 8-year-old son inside — the female took off, injuring the woman’s shoulder and left ankle during the getaway.

The boy eventually hopped out of the vehicle near the intersection of Kimball and Belmont, and the carjacker continued northbound on Kimball, police said. The boy wasn’t hurt, but his mother was taken to Illinois Masonic and her condition was stabilized.

“We were very hopeful that the person was going to get caught that did this,” Shaun Betzel said of the hit-and-run driver. “And then we were very disheartened when we found out that the car had been carjacked four days earlier.”

Shaun Betzel hasn't been able to see her in the hospital due to coronavirus restrictions that limit each patient to two visitors. With Brennan and his wife filling those spots, Shaun Betzel has only been able to visit with his daughter through video calls; she's only able to communicate using hand signs and notes.

“Every time I get off the call with her, it’s just heart-wrenching and I want to cry because it’s just so hard to see her in this condition as a parent,” he said.

Betzel graduated from DePaul University and now works on fundraising projects at WTTW, Chicago’s PBS affiliate, and has a second job as seamstress at Uncommon Closet, a custom clothing and tailoring shop in Logan Square that caters to the LGBTQ community.

Shaun Betzel said his daughter also builds her own bikes and has long been passionate about cycling: “She’s always out there promoting safe biking and for people to be aware of bicyclists.”

Eight bicyclists were killed by drivers in 2020, according to preliminary statistics released by the Chicago Department of Transportation. Four cyclists died in 2019; six died in 2018; six died in 2017; and five died in 2016, according to the CDOT.

Police said the vehicle that struck Betzel is a 2013-2017 model. Anyone with information was asked to call Area Three detectives at 312-745-4521.

Police say this vehicle is wanted in a hit-and-run crash from Feb. 10, 2021, in Avondale.
Police say this vehicle is wanted in a hit-and-run crash from Feb. 10, 2021, in Avondale.
Chicago Police Department