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Aldermen Approve $1.4 Million Settlement For Mother Of Toddler Killed During High-Speed Police Chase; $1.2 Million Payment To Two Innocent Men Shot At By Off-Duty Cop Now Facing Felony Charges

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A woman whose 13-month-old son was killed by a hit-and-run driver during a high-speed police chase in July 2015 will receive a $1.4 million settlement from the city, in a lawsuit accusing police of failing to call of the pursuit when it posed a significant risk to pedestrians.

Dillan Harris was sitting in a stroller as he and his mother waited at a bus stop near 63rd Street and Ellis Avenue on July 11, 2015, when 21-year-old Antoine Watkins jumped the curb while fleeing police, and ran over the toddler.

Police had started chasing Watkins after seeing him flee the scene of a shooting about four miles away, near 77th and Kingston.

Dillan's mother, Shatrell McComb, sued the city, claiming officers should have called off the pursuit long before her son was killed, because of the danger such a high-speed pursuit.

Deputy Corporation Counsel Mary Ruether told aldermen the chase reached speeds of up to 87 mph just two blocks away from where Dillan was killed.

Ruether said an investigation of the chase determined officers violated several policies during the chase, including a prohibition on so-called "caravanning," or chases involving more than two police cars. A total of four police vehicles were involved in the pursuit, including a police van, despite a rule prohibiting police vans from taking part in any pursuits.

In addition, an unmarked squad car was leading the chase, despite a rule that unmarked cars only taking part in pursuits until marked police cars take over.

Aldermen unanimously approved the $1.4 settlement with McComb.

Watkins was also a defendant in the lawsuit, but Ruether said he does not have sufficient assets to pay any judgment for damages.

Watkins was charged with first-degree murder in Dillan's death, but was only convicted of reckless homicide, and served 4 years and 9 months in prison before he was released in 2020.

Meantime, the Finance Committee also approved a $1.2 million settlement with Jomner Orozco Carreto and Carlos Ramirez, after an off-duty officer shot at them in December 2020, and later was charged with felony aggravated battery in the shooting.

Police have said, around 10:45 p.m. on Dec. 11, 2020, Officer Kevin Bunge was sitting in a parked in the 3300 block of West Irving Park Road, when he reported hearing gunshots. He then walked up to Carreto and Ramirez, who were parked behind him, and originally said the men aimed guns at him first, prompting him to open fire, wounding Carreto in the hand.

However, the only gun investigators found belonged to Bunge, and video indicated the opposite chain of events to Bunge's story.

After Bunge was charged with felony aggravated battery three months later, his attorneys changed the narrative slightly, claiming he feared Carreto and Ramirez were going to carjack him after two previous failed carjackings in recent prior weeks.

Carreto's and Ramirez's attorney, Brad Thomson said, Bunge overreacted when a car parked behind him.

"If you're an individual that views somebody parking on the same street that you're parked on as deadly threat, that shows a problem with judgment," Thomson said after Bunge was charged in March 2021.

Thomson said, if Bunge believed the men were trying to carjack him, "a reasonable response might be to drive away."

"To get out of the vehicle and approach individuals that you supposedly are afraid of is not reasonable," Thomson said.

While Bunge now faces felony charges and has been suspended, Thomson said what is more concerning for everyone is the duty the officer held at the time of the incident, as a Chicago Police Academy instructor.

"The fact this officer is an instructor for the use of force for the Police Academy reflects that there's a systemic problem in the Chicago Police Department and how they train on the use of force," Thomson said.

The lawsuit Carreto and Ramirez filed lawsuit said Carreto was driving at the time of the incident, while Ramirez was in the passenger seat. They were headed out to meet another friend and were traveling west on Irving Park Road at the time, the lawsuit said.

Ramirez was using his GPS to navigate and provide directions to Carreto, and Carreto had doubts about the directions the GPS was providing and decided to pull over to use the GPS safely on his own.

Carreto pulled to the side of the road on Irving Park Road, where the officer involved – identified in the lawsuit as Kevin Bunge – was sitting in a sport-utility vehicle parked in front of Carreto's car after just having finished his shift, the lawsuit said.

While Carreto and Ramirez were parked legally on the street trying to figure out directions, Bunge came up with holding a handgun and displaying a police star around his neck, the lawsuit alleged.

The suit went on to claim that Bunge fired at them "without cause or justification," prompting Carreto to speed off, call 911, and go to a nearby store to seek help.

Carreto was shot in the hand, and he ended up with significant injuries to two fingers, the lawsuit said. Glass from the shattered car window also hit Ramirez in the face, and the noise from the gunshots was so loud that it caused significant pain and hearing loss in his left ear.

Aldermen also approved a third settlement for more than $1 million on Thursday involving another case accusing police of misconduct, as they agreed to a $1.675 million payment to settle a lawsuit filed by five people who were violently assaulted by police officers at the Brickyard Mall during widespread looting in May 2020, despite no evidence the group was involved in any criminal activity.

All three settlements now go to the full City Council for consideration next week.


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