Oak Lawn man was drunk and speeding when he slammed into Hometown police officer: prosecutors

Otis M. Pruitt allegedly tried running from the scene after striking Lt. James Kouski on Saturday.

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An Oak Lawn man was speeding and driving drunk when he struck and killed a police officer who was redirecting traffic at the site of another DUI crash in south suburban Hometown, Cook County prosecutors said Monday.

Otis M. Pruitt, 27, ran from the scene after hitting Lt. James Kouski at 90th Place and Pulaski Road early Saturday morning, but he was arrested a short time later in a backyard in the 4000 block of West 90th Place.

Officers said Pruitt strongly smelled like alcohol, had bloodshot eyes and was slurring his speech. He also needed help when walking, prosecutors said.

Pruitt’s blood alcohol content level was 0.156 — nearly double the 0.08 legal limit — prosecutors said.

Pruitt, who also suffered from injuries from the crash, remained hospitalized Monday and did not appear at his bond court hearing at the Bridgeview Courthouse.

Before he was hit, Kouski, a 34-year veteran, was redirecting traffic by a downed light pole that was knocked down during an earlier DUI crash, prosecutors said. The officer had been standing in front of his parked squad car, which had its emergency lights activated.

Pruitt nearly swiped another motorist’s car before slamming into 58-year-old Kouski, prosecutors said.

When Pruitt tried to overtake another car — driving 20 mph over the posted speed limit of 40 mph — his car appeared to nearly flip over as he braked to avoid a crash, prosecutors said. He continued to swerve in and out of traffic before striking the rear of Kouski’s squad car, prosecutors said.

The force of the crash sent the squad car into Kouski, throwing him 40 to 50 feet down the road, prosecutors said. Kouski was found unresponsive and bleeding from his head. He was pronounced dead at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.

The crash fractured Kouski’s skull and vertebrae, detached his spine from his brain, tore his aorta, punctured his lungs and tore his liver, his autopsy revealed.

While Kouski was lying on the road, Pruitt drove over a raised median before striking a guardrail, prosecutors said. He then exited and entered his car several times and revved his engine in an attempt to drive off. Once it was clear he couldn’t drive away, Pruitt allegedly ran off.

Pruitt, was ordered held on $1 million bail Monday for reckless homicide, aggravated DUI and failure to yield to an emergency vehicle.

If Pruitt is able to post bond, a judge recommended he be placed on electronic monitoring. He is barred from driving, taking intoxicating substances and contacting the victim’s family or witnesses while he awaits trial.

Pruitt was sentenced to three years in prison for selling a handgun to a minor in 2013.

He is expected back in court April 9.

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