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$50K bail for wrong-way driver charged with fatally striking woman in The Loop

Jamaal Huffman was driving a red BMW sedan the wrong way in a parking lane when he crashed into 55-year-old Maria Chiqui as she tried to cross the street.

A man was charged with reckless homicide for fatally striking a woman with his BMW Friday night in The Loop.
A man was charged with reckless homicide for fatally striking a woman with his BMW Friday night in The Loop.
Adobe Stock photo

Bail was set at $50,000 Sunday for a 26-year-old man charged with fatally striking a woman as he drove the wrong direction down a one-way street last week in The Loop.

Jamaal Huffman, of Matteson, faces a felony count of reckless homicide in the crash Friday evening in the 300 block of South Wabash, according to Cook County prosecutors and Chicago police

Huffman was driving a red BMW sedan the wrong way in a parking lane when he crashed into a 55-year-old woman — who was identified by the Cook County medical examiner’s office as Maria Chiqui — trying to cross the street, authorities said. During Huffman’s initial court hearing Sunday, Assistant State’s Attorney Kevin Meehan said the woman was sent flying into the car’s windshield before being thrown across Jackson Street.

It was raining at the time of the crash and Huffman “was driving too fast for conditions,” according to Meehan, who noted that his driver’s license was expired.

Chiqui suffered severe head injuries and was pronounced dead at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Meehan said. An autopsy conducted Saturday by the Cook County medical examiner’s office ruled her death an accident.

Meehan said nearby Chicago cops heard the crash and ran to Huffman’s car, which was stopped about a block from the scene of the collision. He was then taken into custody.

Witnesses identified Huffman as the driver and he admitted to being behind the wheel, Meehan said. The crash was also captured on surveillance footage.

Police initially reported that Huffman attempted to flee the scene of the crash, but Meehan didn’t make that claim during his bail hearing. Huffman has no criminal background, Meehan said.

Courtney Smallwood, the public defender representing Huffman, described her client as an unemployed high school graduate who has lived in Cook County for the past decade. Smallwood said the fatal crash was apparently a “tragic accident,” noting there’s no indication that Huffman was drinking or using drugs.

Later in the hearing, Judge David Navarro said it was a “tragedy” because the woman who was struck had “no reason to look the other way, the wrong way, to look for a car,” adding that “any vehicle driven can become a weapon.”

Navarro set Huffman’s bail at $50,000. His next court date was scheduled for Thursday.