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Calumet City OKs payout of $4.2 million in lawsuit stemming from 2017 police chase, crash

Calumet City will pay $4.2 million to a Chicago man who was left paralyzed following a November 2017 police chase that started in Calumet City and ended in a crash in neighboring Dolton that killed a 15-year-old, according to a lawyer who represented the injured man.

The city agreed to the settlement last week, according to William Gibbs, the attorney for Ahmad Norwood, one of three people in a Jeep Grand Cherokee who were pursued by police following a shoplifting incident at River Oaks Center in Calumet City.

Norwood, now 21, was left paralyzed from the waist down, according to Gibbs, a partner in the Chicago law firm Corboy & Demetrio.

The case had been set for a jury trial May 19 but both sides were engaged in talks aimed at reaching a settlement before that, the attorney said Wednesday.

Gibbs said he was told by Calumet City’s lawyers, Odelson, Sterk, Murphey, Frazier & McGrath, that the settlement was approved at last Thursday’s City Council meeting. A meeting agenda notes a resolution settling outstanding litigation, but does not specify the Norwood matter. A message left with the firm verifying that the settlement was approved was not immediately returned.

Norwood had, in October 2018, sued Calumet City, accusing police of acting with “utter disregard” for the safety of others when they initiated a high-speed, inter-jurisdictional pursuit of teenage shoplifting suspects that ended in a serious two-vehicle crash.

The Nov. 3, 2017, crash occurred at Sibley Boulevard and Chicago Road in Dolton, after the driver of the fleeing vehicle blew a red light and collided with another vehicle, according to police.

The driver was injured but another passenger, 15-year-old Ryan Thomas, was killed in the wreck.

The Jeep had been reported stolen to police agencies, including Calumet City, from Lemont at least a day before the shoplifting and crash, Gibbs said.

Four youths, including Norwood and Thomas, were involved in shoplifting merchandise from the Macy’s store at River Oaks, and one person was detained by security while the other three fled, police said at the time and Gibbs confirmed.

The Jeep was pulled over at one point by a Calumet City officer, but the vehicle took off as the officer was getting out of his squad car, Gibbs said.

He said the pursuit continued into Dolton but that no Dolton officers were involved in the chase, which reached speeds of about 90 mph, based on police estimates and Gibbs’ research.

At the Dolton intersection, the Jeep collided with another vehicle, “became airborne, came into contact with a traffic light pole, and landed on its side,” according to the lawsuit.

Norwood and the Jeep’s driver were taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn and Thomas was taken to Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey, where he was pronounced dead.

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The 24-year-old driver and 4-year-old passenger in the other vehicle were taken to a hospital for evaluation, police said at the time.

Norwood’s lawsuit claimed the department violated its policy on pursuits by chasing the vehicle despite none of its occupants being suspected of a violent felony and for continuing the chase into Dolton without a supervisor’s permission.

It also faults police for allegedly driving at high speeds in areas with a high volume of pedestrian and vehicular traffic, and for undertaking a pursuit whose “inherent danger” outweighed the need to immediately apprehend the suspects.

Gibbs said that Norwood “was a very talented and promising basketball player” in high school.

He said the money provides him and his family a certain amount of security in helping to pay for his medical care.

“Ahmad would gladly trade this settlement for the ability to walk and run and play basketball again,” Gibbs said.

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