Family members of a Des Plaines man struck and killed by a Wheeling police vehicle Sunday morning have sued the village of Wheeling, claiming the officer driving had acted recklessly and negligently.
The suit further claims that the village intentionally inflicted emotional distress on the family by leaving body parts of 20-year-old Fredi Morales at the scene of his death as long as 36 hours later.
The lawsuit filed in Cook County circuit court by attorneys Erron H. Fisher and Michael J. LaMonica seeks damages in excess of $50,000.
Calls to Wheeling Village Manager Jon Sfondilis and Deputy Police Chief Todd Wolff Wednesday morning were not immediately returned.
Fisher said that while the lawsuit is expected to be amended as more information from the investigation becomes available -- including the name of the officer involved -- it was important to file the complaint quickly to obtain a protective order for the evidence in a case in which there's no criminal proceeding pending.
Nevertheless, Fisher said there's sufficient evidence already for the suit to claim the 22-year veteran officer acted carelessly and negligently in not illuminating his squad vehicle's flashing lights, sounding its siren or horn, or keeping a proper lookout as he traveled at a high and unsafe speed on McHenry Road.
Furthermore, the suit claims that some small body parts and tissue circled as evidence at the scene by the accident investigators was left behind after they left and seen by Morales' brother, Oscar Morales, when he visited the site to grieve Monday night.
"It was a very bizarre situation," Fisher said. "I've never seen anything like this before."
A 3-by-1-inch portion of Fredi Morales' remains, which Fisher said he didn't have the expertise to identify himself, was at least one part taken from the scene after the village of Wheeling was contacted and reunited with the rest of Morales' body at River Woods Funeral Chapels in Des Plaines.
Wolff said Monday the investigation independently conducted by the Lake County Major Crash Assistance Team established that the squad vehicle's flashing lights and siren were not activated when it struck Morales at 5:42 a.m. Sunday on McHenry Road just west of Cedar Run Road.
Wolff said the investigation further determined that Morales was wearing dark clothes and running north along a dimly lit section of the road at the time.
The officer told the department he was trying to catch up to a traffic violator before activating his flashing lights and siren. The nature of the traffic violation was not yet known to Wolff.
Family members told the Daily Herald that Morales had been out with his brother and some friends Saturday night and early Sunday morning, but he had gotten separated from them, and lost, while looking for the car.