Man charged in crash that killed state trooper on I-294 ordered not to drive
Dozens of solemn Illinois State Police troopers crowded into a Skokie courtroom Tuesday where a judge set bail at $250,000 for the Wisconsin man charged in the death this month of Trooper Christopher Lambert, 34.
Prosecutors say hospital tests showed defendant Scott A. Larsen had a "cannabinoid" substance in his system and that he admitted to authorities he had "vaped" the evening before the fatal crash.
Larsen, 61, stood with his head bowed before Cook County Judge Anjana M.J. Hansen, who ordered him to surrender his passport and driver's license.
"Absolutely no driving," Hansen told the certified public accountant and financial planner who, after posting bond, will be allowed to live in Kenosha County while his case is pending.
If convicted of reckless homicide of a police officer and violating Scott's Law, Larsen faces up to 14 years in prison. Scott's Law refers to the law named for Chicago Fire Department Lt. Scott Gillen, who was struck and killed in 2000 while assisting at a crash scene on a Chicago expressway. Dubbed the "move over" law, it requires drivers to slow down and yield to stopped emergency vehicles.
Lambert, a five-year veteran of Illinois State Police District 15, was described by Capt. Bob Meeder as a "breath of fresh air" and a courageous and compassionate officer whose unnecessary death will not be forgotten.
Lambert was struck and killed Jan. 12 after he stopped to assist people involved in crashes late that afternoon on I-294 near Willow Road. The first occurred at 4:34 p.m. when the driver of a northbound white Ford Explorer traveling too fast for snowy conditions, lost control and struck two other vehicles, said Assistant Cook County State's Attorney Andreana Turano. The vehicles ended up on the left shoulder and left lane, Turano said.
A black Dodge Challenger with dashboard and rear cameras captured the collision on video, which the driver provided to authorities, Turano said.
A second, single-car collision involving a gray Toyota Corolla followed. As the driver slowed, the car's left rear tire caught some snow, causing the driver to lose control, Turano said. Rather than hit the three disabled vehicles, the driver deliberately struck the median wall, Turano said.
Lambert, an Army veteran and the married father of a 1-year-old daughter, was in uniform but off duty and on his way home to Highland Park in an unmarked squad car at the time.
Video shows Lambert collecting information from the drivers while his vehicle, with its emergency system activated, was parked behind the black Challenger, Turano said.
Meanwhile, the driver of a Mitsubishi Outlander approached and began to slow. Larsen, who was driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee passed the Mitsubishi "at a high rate of speed" on the left shoulder, striking Lambert and "causing his body to fly into the air," Turano said.
Five minutes earlier, I-PASS recorded Larsen's speed as 71 mph in a 60 mph zone, she said.
Larsen has a 2016 reckless driving and DUI conviction from Wisconsin for which he received 30 days jail, two years of probation and 200 hours of community service.
Turano described that case as "egregious." She said Larsen was driving with a flat front tire south in the northbound lanes of Route 41 on Sept. 16, 2014 into the path of an ambulance, which moved out of the way.
She said Larsen made a U-turn crossing three lanes and drove onto the median where he stopped the car. He exited, urinated and restarted the car but was stopped by officers. He had a blood alcohol content of .19, Turano said.
Major David Byrd, an Illinois State Police commander, said troopers plan to attend upcoming hearings.
"You learn to manage a tragic death like this but you never get over it," Byrd said.
Lambert was rendering assistance, as required, Byrd said.
"This is our job," he said. "Unfortunately, he gave the ultimate sacrifice."