More than three years after her death, the family of an 84-year-old Chicago grandmother who died in a car accident caused by police moving at a high rate of speed is frustrated and tired of waiting for retribution.
“Family, church, and school, that was her life,” Pastor Dwight Gunn said of his mother, Verona Gunn, who died in 2019 from injuries she got when a Chicago police vehicle crashed into the automobile she was riding in.
Dwight Gunn, 52, believes that nothing will ever be able to replace his mother, a retired schoolteacher who was also active in her church. She was killed by Chicago police on May 25, 2019, after a violent collision involving police vehicles.
Gunn stated of the fatal incident, “This should not have happened.”
Verona Gunn was sitting in her blue Toyota at a Chicago intersection on the evening of May 25, 2019, when a Chicago police van responding to a call for officer assistance sped through a red light with sirens blaring and flashing lights on, T-boning a police cruiser crossing the intersection with its own lights and sirens on.
The police car collided with the Toyota, which was occupied by Verona Gunn and two other relatives.
“It’s absolutely irritating,” Dwight Gunn stated passionately, referring to his mother, sister, and others who had to be treated that night.
Gunn died as a result of her injuries in the crash, which also injured two other people inside the car and ten police officers. In June of this year, the Gunn family filed a wrongful death case.
The Gunn family argues that the city of Chicago and Chicago police have yet to reply to their case or take any action in response to the fatal crash, causing them immense anger and frustration.
Dwight Gunn remarked, “It is typical of the type of callousness that exists and the bureaucracy of the city’s government.”
Adding to the irritation, the fatal collision was captured on dispatch recordings and surveillance footage, yet it took Chicago’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability Office (COPA) more than two years to finish its own investigation and transmit it to the Superintendent of Police for review.
“Three years later, we still don’t have the Civilian Office of Police Accountability’s investigative report, and we still don’t have any penalty or termination of the officers who knowingly violated Ms. Gunn’s rights,” said Andrew Stroth, a civil rights attorney who represents the Gunn family.
According to Stroth, the evidence in the case is irrefutable. “There is footage from the gas station and video from the liquor store, and that’s incredibly damning because it clearly shows the officers traveling at excessive speeds,” the attorney explained.
“If you listen to the OEMC, the Emergency Management Dispatch tapes, you’ll hear dispatch tell the police to slow down many times, and the cop disobeyed those directions,” Stroth stated.
The dispatcher told the officers before the collision that the armed suspect at the site they were racing to had already been disarmed, according to the Associated Press.
“COPA finished the investigation into this event on July 2, 2021, and it is our understanding that the superintendent weighed in on COPA’s recommendations,” COPA said in a statement to Atlanta Black Star. This lawsuit is currently with the Department of Law.”
“Upon completion of the Superintendent’s review or, if applicable, following service of disciplinary charges by the Department of Law on any involved officer, COPA will post its Summary Report of Investigation on its website, which will include COPA’s analysis of the evidence and investigative findings and recommendations,” the agency added.
The City of Chicago’s Department of Law told Atlanta Black Star that the complaint filed against it is still pending, so it can’t comment on it.
“It’s just a tragedy the City of Chicago should learn from,” Stroth said of the incident. “It wasn’t like it was a young man with a gun, it was an innocent 84-year-old grandmother coming home from a graduation party and the officers being overzealous and you watch the crash, it’s horrific.”
While the Gunn family anticipates monetary losses in the future, they have not specified a specific cash number.
They do, however, want immediate policy changes, specifically a motor vehicle safety program, so that no one else is killed by Chicago police responding to emergencies caused by reckless driving or high-speed vehicle pursuits.
“In our instance, it’s just a matter of people following the general orders,” Dwight Gunn said of the family’s lawsuit against the city and police. “If that would have happened, this would not be a case right now.”
When Atlanta Black Star called Chicago police to inquire about when the department plans to conclude its assessment of COPA’s investigation and whether any disciplinary action will be taken against the officers involved in the fatal crash, the department has not responded.
While the Gunn family awaits the outcome of the investigation, they continue to treasure their memories of Verona.
“My mother was a very devout Christian woman,” Gunn added. “[People] knew they could go to my mom and be loved and cared for, and that was just her heart and nature,” he concluded.
At this point, there is no information on when Chicago police will make the findings of their investigation public.