Police dispatcher dies when hit by driver fleeing cops
A woman was killed in a crash on the Northwest Side crash this morning. A man was taken into custody who appeared to be driving the Range Rover, according to witnesses. (Michael Tercha, Chicago Tribune / July 10, 2011)
Adkins died early Sunday driving home from her overnight shift after her car was struck by a teenager fleeing from police in stolen SUV, police said. The 16-year-old had touched off a nearly 2-mile pursuit after he backed into a police vehicle during a traffic stop for failing to stop at a red light, police said.
Adkins, 42, was married to a dispatcher for the Chicago Fire Department, and the couple had a young daughter.
The city flag at Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications was lowered to half-staff on Sunday, and Adkins’ body was escorted by police and fire vehicles from Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
Grief-stricken friends and family gathered at her Northwest Side home, which is less than a mile from the intersection where Adkins was struck -- at Hoyne and Armitage avenues in the Bucktown neighborhood.
“According to her co-workers and supervisors, she was the nicest, most positive person you would ever want to meet,” OEMC Executive Director Gary Schenkel said in a statement.
The crash, at 6:15 a.m., startled several Bucktown residents from their sleep as Adkins’ car seemed to buckle around a fire hydrant on the driver’s side and the SUV, a Range Rover, crashed into a building.
After police had tried to stop the teen at Blackhawk Street and Elston Avenue, he fled north, winding up on Hoyne, where he fatally struck Adkins as she drove west on Armitage, police said.
According to department policy, officers must contact an OEMC dispatcher with details about any pursuit, and a supervisor must monitor and manage the chase. Sources told the Tribune that the pursuit Sunday was called into the dispatch center and monitored.
Police had activated their emergency lights and sirens, but the speed the vehicles were traveling was not released Sunday.
After the crash, the 16-year-old bolted from the SUV, rolled over the hood, darted down a narrow gangway and into an alley and fled west, a witness said. Officers did the same. They rolled over hoods and chased him on foot, catching up with him nearby.
“It was just like you see in cop videos,” said a woman who didn’t want to be named because she helped identify the teen to police. “They were doing their job for sure.”
Once arrested, the teen, who allegedly had been drinking, was taken to a hospital for treatment. No charges had been filed Sunday evening.
It was the chase on foot that woke up Teddy Vehar, 29, whose window is beside the gangway the teen charged through. He heard “flip-flop” steps, he said.
“It sounded like he had big old feet,” said Vehar, who grabbed a bat and ran to his front door in the 2000 block of North Hoyne, preparing to confront a criminal.
But outside, he instead saw Adkins’ wrecked car. She was trapped and not moving. Others said her head was slumped to the side.
Stunned, Vehar offered his bat to help free Adkins, who he said appeared to be turning white. “The poor lady,” Vehar said.
Vehar and others said the Fire Department worked frantically to free Adkins, crawling over the hood of the car to reach her.
“It’s just sad,” said Mike Byrne, 29. “Looking at her, you knew she was gone, and even if she wasn’t, it wasn’t going to be easy to bring her back.”
After freeing her, the firefighters turned to the trunk of the car, ripping it apart, presumably to make sure there were not any other victims.
Several neighbors were shaken by the violent crash. Byrne noted that it happened about an hour before many in the busy neighborhood typically woke up.
“There’s so many people that walk around here with strollers … people with dogs,” he said.
And as the crash investigation stretched through the morning, the streets filled with joggers, dog-walkers and families pushing strollers, many of whom stopped to gaze on the mangled vehicles.
“It just makes my heart so sad,” said the woman who watched the foot chase. “All for a Range Rover.”
A woman at Adkins’ home said the family did not want to comment. Adkins had worked as a dispatcher since 1996.
Shortly after 11 a.m., a procession of six cars and one ambulance left the hospital for the medical examiner’s office, the lights flashing on police and fire vehicles but the sirens were silent. Loved ones rode in Ambulance 43 accompanying Adkins.
Two hospital employees watched as the solemn journey began.
Tribune reporter Carlos Sadovi contributed.
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