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Chicago Police officer Tangie Brown charged with drunk driving in fatal crash while off duty in River North

Family of woman hit, killed plans to sue CPD officer charged with DUI while off duty
Family of woman hit, killed plans to sue CPD officer charged with DUI while off duty 02:43

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A Chicago Police officer is facing drunken driving charges after jumping a curb and hitting and killing a woman while off-duty last month in the River North neighborhood.

Tangie Brown, 40, turned herself in on Monday on multiple charges in the death of 56-year-old Maria Schwab, of Texas.

Brown faces felony charges of aggravated DUI involving death and aggravated use of a communication device involving death; misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and failure to give information or render aid; and traffic citations for improper lane usage and failure to reduce speed.

Late Tuesday, attorneys representing the family of Schwab announced they would file a civil lawsuit against Brown.

Tangie Brown Chicago Police

A police report on the crash said Brown was using a maps app on her cellphone while driving south on State Street just north of the Chicago River bridge at 12:27 a.m. On Dec. 7, when she dropped her phone and tried to pick it up, overcorrected the car, and nearly swerved into the center median.

She then tried to correct course and ended up swerving into the right lane, jumped the curb, and hit Schwab and a second woman, before hitting a fence where Brown came to a stop outside of the House of Blues.

Chicago police officer faces drunk driving charges, lawsuit in connection with fatal crash 01:49

After the crash, Brown stayed in her car and failed to call for help or assist either of the victims, according to the police report.

Schwab was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. The other woman Brown hit was treated at the scene for a cut to her hand and abrasions to her legs.

A police supervisor took Brown to Northwestern for a blood draw, which later determined her blood alcohol level was 0.093, above the legal limit of 0.08.

Brown was relieved of her police powers on the day of the crash.

Off-duty Chicago police officer charged with drunk driving in fatal crash 02:05

At her detention hearing on Tuesday, Cook County Prosecutors said she had three drinks at a non-sponsored work holiday party at the nearby Tree House Chicago bar at LaSalle and Kinzie.

Brown was released from custody while she awaits trial, but is not allowed to drive without getting permission from the Illinois Secretary of State's office.

She has been an officer since 2008 and remains on the force but is not allowed to carry a weapon.

Brown is due back in court on Feb. 20.

Pending lawsuit against Brown

The lawyers representing Schwab's family said in a statement they intend to file the wrongful death lawsuit not only against Brown but, "any others who have culpability in Maria's horrific death."

"She had a wonderful family, you know - husband Stacey, and a beautiful daughter," family attorney Tim Cavanaugh said of Schwab. "They're obviously devastated."

Maria Schwab Supplied to CBS 2

Prosecutors said Brown had just left a holiday party at a River North bar shortly before the crash, and admitted to having three drinks.

The family's attorneys said they will investigate whether Brown was over-served by bars and restaurants in River North.

"We want to know where she was drinking," Cavanaugh said. "If those bars got her intoxicated, they are going to be added to the lawsuit."

Cavanaugh also noted that the blood draw to determine Brown's blood alcohol level was not given until 2:25 a.m. - about two hours after the crash.

"It was notable that, you know, they weren't able to take her BAC until two hours after, and it was still in excess - significantly," Cavanaugh said.

Cavanaugh said part of his investigation will center on why it took hours to test Brown for alcohol, and more than seven weeks to bring criminal charges.

"We're going to find out whether the police did a proper and thorough investigation," said Cavanaugh, "and hope that the police did their duty to serve and protect after they found one of their own had committed this act."

Cavanaugh added the family is "relieved criminal charges have been filed, but they have many unanswered questions. They cannot understand how a police officer who was supposed to serve and protect the public could drive in that severely intoxicated state and not even get out of her car to try to help Maria after she hit her."  

While the attorneys said the family is seeking justice, they did not disclose any specific damages they would seek in their lawsuit.

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