Cook County Record

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Mother of Dillan Harris brings wrongful death action, alleges police should have cut short chase ending in son's death

By Jonathan Bilyk | Jul 23, 2015

Dillan Harris

The mother of Dillan Harris - a 13-month-old child killed in his stroller when a vehicle driven by a man fleeing from police jumped the curb, struck the stroller with the child inside it and then dragged the stroller and child into a nearby alley – has sued the driver of the vehicle, the city of Chicago and as many as 20 police officers, alleging the high-speed police chase through the neighborhood streets that claimed the life of her son should never have happened.

Shatrelle McComb, of Chicago, through her attorneys Martin D. Gould and Antonio M. Romanucci, of the firm of Romanucci & Blandin, of Chicago, filed the wrongful death complaint over the July 11 death in Cook County Circuit Court on Thursday, July 23.

Antoine Watkins, 21, identified as the driver of the vehicle that struck and killed Harris, has been charged with homicide in connection with the boy’s death.

According to the complaint, McComb and Harris, along with other family members and friends, including other young children, were headed to the beach and were waiting at the bus stop at East 63rd Street and Ellis Avenue in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood shortly before 2 p.m.

At the same time, Chicago Police officers were in pursuit of Watkins, driving a red Toyota Avalon, as he fled the scene of a fatal shooting about 3.5 miles away on South Kingston Avenue, in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood.

As police pursued him through the neighborhood streets, Watkins’ vehicle eventually turned onto Ellis Avenue, and veered toward the bus stop, where it struck, dragged and killed Harris, before crashing in a nearby alley.

According to the complaint, Watkins and the officers were driving at speeds of 60-70 mph on streets with a speed limit of 30-35 mph, and ran four red lights, during the 20 minute-long chase.

The complaint repeatedly notes the chase occurred against the backdrop of “the early afternoon of a warm, sunny Saturday with numerous pedestrians walking around outside and potentially in harm’s way.”

McComb alleges the chase should have ended long before Watkins’ vehicle arrived at the bus stop, as the complaint alleges officers ignored instructions from superiors, either with the Chicago Police Department or the Office of Emergency Management, to end the pursuit of Watkins.

Against the city and police officers, McComb alleges wrongful death, willful and wanton conduct and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

She asserts the police officers pursuing Watkins “recklessly engaged in pursuit … along commercial and residential streets,” “recklessly used the activity of following as subterfuge for an alleged vehicle pursuit,” “improperly engaged in an alleged pursuit when the residential area made it unsafe to do so,” and “failed to abandon the alleged vehicle pursuit when it was the most reasonable course of action.”

Against Watkins, she alleges wrongful death as a result of negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

McComb is seeking damages of more than $50,000.

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