Wheeling officer who struck pedestrian was chasing traffic violator

A veteran Wheeling police officer was pursuing a traffic violator when his patrol SUV struck and killed 20-year-old Des Plaines resident Fredi Morales early Sunday morning, officials said Monday.

The initial investigation by the independent Lake County Major Crash Assistance Team has revealed that the officer - who has not yet been named - was attempting to catch up to another vehicle traveling west on McHenry Road, but had not yet activated his vehicle's flashing lights or sirens before striking Morales, Wheeling Deputy Police Chief Todd Wolff said.

Morales was wearing dark clothing and running north across a dimly lit five-lane section of McHenry Road when he was struck just west of Cedar Run Drive at 5:42 a.m., according to Wheeling police.

Morales' aunt, Olivia Lopez, told the Daily Herald that Morales had been with his brother and some friends on Saturday night and early Sunday morning. Morales got separated and lost while trying to find where his brother had parked the car, she said.

The officer, a 22-year veteran who suffered nonlife-threatening injuries, has been placed on paid administrative leave as a result of being involved in a serious accident, not as a disciplinary measure, Wolff said.

Wheeling Fire Chief Keith MacIsaac said the officer's injuries involve burns from the airbag deployment and bruising from his shoulder harness and the impact of the collision.

All Wheeling officials with whom MacIsaac has had contact since the accident has expressed heartfelt remorse for Morales and his family, he said.

"This is just an incredibly unfortunate set of circumstances," MacIsaac said. "Everyone involved is devastated by this and everyone's condolences go out to the family."

Morales was pronounced dead at the scene. The Cook County medical examiner's office Monday ruled his death an accident, the result of multiple injuries from being struck by a sport utility vehicle.

"Our sympathy and prayers go out to the Morales family during this very difficult time," the Wheeling police department said in a statement.

Services for Morales will be held Tuesday at Severino's River Woods Funeral Chapels, 205 S. River Road in Des Plaines. Visitation will begin at 4 p.m. and last until the start of the funeral service at 7:30 p.m. Morales' remains will then be sent to Mexico.

Wolff said he did not yet know what offense the traffic violator had committed to cause the officer pursuit, but that driver was never caught.

Des Plaines man struck, killed by Wheeling police vehicle

Authorities are investigating the death of Des Plaines resident Fredi Morales, 20, after being struck by a Wheeling police vehicle early Sunday morning on McHenry Road near Cedar Run Drive. courtesy of ABC 7 Chicago Eyewitness News
Fredi Morales
  A memorial sits on McHenry Road in Wheeling for Fredi Morales, the Des Plaines man killed early Sunday when struck by a Wheeling police vehicle. The 22-year police veteran driving the vehicle was pursuing a suspected traffic violator when he struck Morales, police said Monday. Steve Lundy/
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.