Jury awards $5 million to family of 84-year-old woman killed in crash with CPD vehicle

Verona Gunn, a former teacher, died after a speeding Chicago Police Department cruiser struck her car in 2019. Ten police officers were also injured in the crash.

SHARE Jury awards $5 million to family of 84-year-old woman killed in crash with CPD vehicle
Derrick Gunn, 58, gets emotional as he speaks during a news conference last year about the death of his mother, 84-year-old Verona Gunn, who was killed when a Chicago Police cruiser collided with her car. A Cook County jury on Wednesday awarded nearly $5 million in damages to Gunn’s family.

Derrick Gunn, 58, son of Verona Gunn, who was killed when the vehicle she was in was struck by a CPD cruiser in 2019, speaks at a news conference last year about his mother’s death.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

A jury Wednesday awarded nearly $5 million to the family of an 84-year-old woman who was killed in 2019 when a speeding Chicago police cruiser struck her car as officers raced to respond to a call in the Austin neighborhood.

Jurors needed about four hours over Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning before issuing a $4.93 million judgment against the city on behalf of retired teacher Verona Gunn, attorney Andrew M. Stroth said.

“Nothing will bring Verona Gunn back, but to me the verdict shows the jury followed their oath and held the city of Chicago accountable for this tragic crash,” Stroth said.

A spokeswoman for the city Law Department declined comment. City attorneys had conceded liability for the crash, leaving the jury to decide the amount of damages for Gunn’s family.

Video of the high-speed, multi-vehicle collision that left Verona Gunn dead was key evidence in a two-day civil trial at the Daley Center that also saw Gunn’s daughter and granddaughter take the witness stand.

Gunn was in the back of her daughter’s Nissan, seated next to her 9-year-old granddaughter, when the car stopped at the intersection of West Division Street and North Laramie as police vehicles raced past on their way to a call of an officer in need of help.

A police van driven by CPD Officer Patrick Brown was speeding west on Division and disregarded a red light before colliding with a CPD SUV that was heading north on Laramie. The impact sent the SUV careening head-on into the front of the Gunns’ car. Police said 10 CPD officers were injured in the chase.

CPD Supt. David Brown moved to fire Officer Brown last year, and the officer has been suspended without pay while his case is pending before the Police Board.

Gunn, who worked as an elementary school teacher for more than 20 years, suffered traumatic injuries in the crash, but she clung to life for several hours at the hospital, Stroth said. Her daughter and granddaughter, who lived with Gunn, gave emotional testimony about the terror of the crash and the pain of losing Gunn, Stroth said.

“This case is about the sanctity of every life, and we fought to convey to the jury that every life matters, regardless of age. We are pleased that the jurors felt a person’s worth was not devalued as they age or because of any mental health or medical condition. ... Verona Gunn’s life mattered,” attorney Antonio Romanucci said in a statement.

Jurors did not get to hear them, but police dispatch recordings showed Brown and other officers were repeatedly told to slow down. In a statement, Gunn’s son, Dwight, said he felt the city had handled the lawsuit with “disrespect.”

“Today we have come to the end of this portion of our fight for accountability and justice,” Dwight Gunn said. “While the City has taken some responsibility, we hope for the next step of policy change and reform that improve policing in our community.”

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