A jury awarded nearly $5 million to the family of an 84-year-old woman killed in 2019 when a speeding Chicago police cruiser collided with her car while responding to a call in the Austin neighborhood.
According to attorney Andrew M. Stroth, jurors took about four hours on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning before awarding a $4.93 million judgment against the city on behalf of retired teacher Verona Gunn.
“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 city Law Department spokeswoman declined to comment. The city attorneys had admitted liability for the crash, leaving the amount of damages for Gunn’s family to be determined by the jury.
Video of the high-speed, multi-vehicle collision that killed Verona Gunn was used as key evidence in a two-day civil trial at the Daley Center, which also included testimony from Gunn’s daughter and granddaughter.
Gunn was sitting in the backseat of her daughter’s Nissan, next to her 9-year-old granddaughter, when the car came to a halt at the intersection of West Division Street and North Laramie as police vehicles raced by on their way to a call of an officer in need of assistance.
CPD Officer Patrick Brown was driving a police van west on Division when it ran a red light and collided with a CPD SUV heading north on Laramie. The impact slammed the SUV into the front of the Gunns’ vehicle. According to police, ten CPD officers were injured during the chase.
Officer Brown was fired by CPD Supt. David Brown last year, and he has been suspended without pay while his case is before the Police Board.
Gunn, a 20-year elementary school teacher, suffered traumatic injuries in the crash, but she clung to life for several hours at the hospital, according to Stroth. Stroth stated that her daughter and granddaughter, who lived with Gunn, gave emotional testimony about the terror of the crash and the pain of losing Gunn.
“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.
Although jurors did not hear them, police dispatch recordings revealed that Brown and other officers were repeatedly told to slow down. Dwight Gunn, Gunn’s son, said in a statement that the city treated 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.”
(Sun-Times Media Wire – Copyright 2023 Chicago Sun-Times.)
The family of a Chicago woman killed in a police chase has demanded answers and action from the city.
Verona Gunn, 84, was murdered in May 2019. Surveillance video showed a police cruiser and an unmarked police car colliding on the West Side and then colliding with the vehicle in which Gunn was riding.
Family members said they filed a lawsuit against the city and the officers involved, but have received no response.
ABC7 has reached out to the city for a response to Monday’s news conference but has yet to receive a response.
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