City approves $1.25 million settlement for man hit by police car during chase


Daily file photo by Daniel Tan

Evanston Police Department squad cars.

Andres Correa, Assistant City Editor

City officials approved a $1.25 million settlement with Paul Caldwell at a Monday City Council meeting, three years after he was struck by a vehicle being pursued by two Evanston police officers.  

On April 3, 2016, Caldwell was crossing the pedestrian crosswalk at the intersection of North Sheridan Road and Greenleaf Avenue, according to court documents, when he was hit by the vehicle the officers were pursuing.

Robert Winter, one of Caldwell’s attorney, told the Daily in 2017 that the incident began when two on-duty Evanston police officers pursued a vehicle for a license plate that expired several days earlier. He said the police officers were going to use that as their probable cause to curb the vehicle; however, the driver fled, and the pursuit entered Chicago.

According to a lawsuit filed by Caldwell, the officers engaged in the pursuit without using the car’s sirens to signal a car chase. The officers broke several laws, including violating traffic laws, failing to stop at stop signs and speeding. In trying to evade the police, the vehicle drove past a red light at the intersection where Caldwell was hit. Winter said this pursuit was not necessary because the driver did not violate any traffic laws.

“The police were speeding and running stop signs and at least one red light all in Chicago,” Winter said in an email to The Daily. “All over an expired registration.”

In court filings, Evanston sought to place blame on Caldwell, saying he was negligent and responsible for his own injuries. A lawyer for the city said Caldwell “failed to take proper evasive action to avoid impact with a vehicle” and failed to take “caution for his own safety,” according to Evanston Patch.

In a March 2018 filling, the city admitted the stop light was red at the time, contradicting earlier denials, according to Patch. It also said it was stopping the vehicle for a minor traffic violation.

According to the Evanston Police Department policy manual, officers are authorized to initiate a pursuit when “it is reasonable to believe a suspect is attempting to evade arrest, where the suspect is believed to have committed or attempted to commit a forcible felony.” The manual also says that officers involved in a pursuit must be able to justify their actions at all times.  

Winter said Caldwell suffered multiple fractures requiring multiple surgeries. Winter told the Daily in 2017 that his client suffered a broken nose and his head landed on the a satchel full of sheet music, which he believes saved his life.

According to the memo from Evanston corporation counsel Michelle Masoncup, the $1.25 million will come from the city’s insurance fund. The memo also stated that in accepting the settlement and payment, the city nor the officers claim liability.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @aocorrea1