Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Who Really Killed Sgt. Alan Haymaker?

On Monday, Feb. 22, we asked some tough questions about the sad and untimely death of Sergeant Alan Haymaker, the third generation Chicago police office who died early Monday morning when his squad car slammed to a deadly halt when it hit a tree near the Irving Park exit ramp on Lake Shore Drive. It seems we were not entirely out of line with those questions, and there are even more questions today - and not just by us. Before we ask who should be arrested on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter, let me clear up something that the rest of the media has repeatedly gotten wrong about this story. Sgt. Haymaker’s car did NOT "spin out" on an "apparently icy exit ramp on Lake Shore Drive” as incorrectly reported by The Chicago Tribune and other news media that have been too lazy to get off their overpaid asses to go look at the scene of death. Chicago News Bench did go, and we took photos that prove beyond doubt that Sgt. Haymaker never entered the exit ramp. In fact, from all visible indications, Sgt. Haymaker did not even attempt to drive onto the exit ramp. Indeed, it would have made no sense for him to have taken that exit ramp, as we pointed out yesterday, because he was reportedly responding to a burglary scene in the 3100 block of N. Clark Street, whereas the Irving Park exit ramp is at 4100 north. Sgt. Haymaker would more likely have been intending to exit Lake Shore Drive at either Addison or Belmont. So, Sgt. Haymaker did not “spin out” on the Irving Park exit ramp, because his car simply did not enter that exit ramp. Furthermore, from our first-hand observations and photographs, his car probably did not even spin out on Lake Shore Drive. Rather, the tire tracks of his car indicate that he drove in a straight line from LSD, over the curb, and straight onto the grassy area between the exit ramp and LSD. It seems that his car spun (fish tailed) about 90 degrees in the split second between jumping the curb and hitting the light pole a few feet before the tree that destroyed both him and his squad car. SO, WHO KILLED SGT. HAYMAKER - AND WHO SHOULD BE CHARGED? There are rumors flying that Mayor Richard Daley gave an order to not put road salt on Lake Shore Drive. Another rumor is that a Streets and Sanitation dispatcher gave an order to not salt LSD. Neither rumor has been substantiated. To play devil’s advocate, a dispatcher be very unlikely to issue such an order unless he/she was confident that it complied with existing city policy, whether that policy was publicly know or not. To do so would certainly raise eyebrows immediately, and probably bring disciplinary action shortly thereafter. Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis has his own idea of who killed Sgt. Haymaker, and it’s a weird idea at that. He blames the burglars that Sgt. Haymaker was en route to on N. Clark Street. WGNTV.com reports that Weis "said officials are in discussion with the Cook County state's attorney's office to see if felony murder charges could be lodged against the burglars responsible for the early morning break in at a cell-phone store in the 3100 block of North Clark Street, where Haymaker was headed.... Under Illinois statutes it appears they could be charged with murder... 'that is something I think that we'll be looking at with the States Attorney's office,' Weis said. 'But I think it's something that we certainly will consider'." Weis said he believes that under state law the person behind a crime can be charged with murder if responding officers are killed. The burglary is also under investigation because no one has been apprehended. If that’s what state law allows, fine. However, it does not address what actually, physically caused Sgt. Haymaker’s car to jump the curb and hit that tree. There’s the road salt question, of course, but there’s also questions about the condition of the squad car that Sgt. Haymaker was driving. SALT IN THE WOUND It’s been said that LSD, a major road, was icy at the time of the accident. But, why? The storm that hit on the evening of Sunday, Feb. 21 started dumping snow on Lake Shore Drive at approximately 9:00 p.m. by my own recollection. Sgt. Haymaker hit the tree just past 5:00 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 22, some eight hours later. LSD is no small side street, and should have been cleared of snow and well salted by then. Monday morning rush hour was about to begin, after all. It should be remembered that a decision to not salt LSD put thousands of commuters at risk of a fate similar to that met by Sgt. Haymaker. Item: The Department of Streets and Sanitation operates the big blue snow plows that also spread road salt. We hear from reliable sources that more than one Streets and San employee stopped to tell investigators at the scene of Sgt. Haymaker’s accident that a dispatcher gave the order to NOT salt Lake Shore Drive on Monday morning. Item: Second City Cop blog (SCC) notes that one of their commenters, “from a cop on traffic control at the scene,” said that a snowplow driver on the inner drive” waived him/her down “and he stated that they were under orders...NOT to salt Lakeshore Drive! The City Snowplow Driver seemed sincere and pissed off that a needless accident had to happen because of his direct orders.” SCC also noted that an e-mail to them seems to confirm this: “A friend who monitored the radio transmission this morning stated that someone from streets n san broadcasted the following... ‘No More Salt On Lake Shore Drive’! That was before the Sgt Crashed. Can someone pull the tapes for that Sgt's family! I figured your the best source of info relay.” See more comments about this at Second City Cop... Item: A local blog says that “Mayor Daley gave the order NOT TO SALT Lake Shore Dr. during snow storms - Due to the salt killing the plants in the center planters.... And now we have today's accident that claimed the life of Sgt. Haymaker.... There are many reports that the Streets and Sans guys were given the ordered NOT TO SALT LAKE SHORE DRIVE. Why? Because the salt gets kicked up into the cement planters and kills the plants and damages the soil.” (Source: Advisory for strong language) If orders were given to NOT salt LSD, perhaps Supt. Weis should focus his murder investigation on Streets and Sanitation, as well as on Mayor Daley. QUESTIONS REMAIN Even if ice was a factor in the accident this morning, why did Sgt. Haymaker steer his car off of Lake Shore Drive, over the curb, and into light post and tree, with NO sign of any spin out prior to leaving the pavement of LSD? There are now questions being asked as to why the road was so icy. Was it because there was no salt put on the road? Was Chicago Streets and Sanitation instructed to not salt Lake Shore Drive? Why would the City not want this large stretch of road traveled daily by thousands of people salted? Attorney Jamie G. Goldstein asks, "There are now questions being asked as to why the ramp was so icy. Was it because there was no salt put on the ramp? Was Chicago Streets and Sanitation instructed to not salt Lake Shore Drive? Why would the City not want this large stretch of road traveled daily by thousands of people salted?" We'll forgive her for being misinformed by the media that Sgt. Haymaker was on "the ramp," but her question about salt - or lack thereof - on the road Sgt. Haymaker last traveled is valid. Another frightening possibility might be found in alleged maintenance negligence. A commenter to one of the blogs cited above wrote that “There are reports on SCC that the pool car that the Sgt was driving was deficient too. Someone posted that the tires appeared to be nearly bald and that the airbag did not deploy.” For Supt. Weis to blame the death of Sgt. Haymaker on two at-large burglary suspects seems like an attempt to divert attention away from possible negligence by the City itself: Mayor Daley for his anti-road salt position, Streets and Sanitation for allegedly ordering salt truck drivers to not salt LSD, and the Chicago Police Department for possibly assigning poorly maintained vehicles to its officers. Weis might have legal ground to stand on when he says he might bring murder charges against the burglars, if captured, but morally he stands on thin ice by not demanding full investigations into Chicago’s own bureaucratic morass. FINAL QUESTIONS No disrespect to Sgt. Haymaker is intended by this question, but it needs to be asked: Was his blood checked for alcohol and/or drugs? I do not mean to imply anything by that question, but if anybody else had such an accident we would ask. The public has a right to know that even for a private citizen. We have as much right to know that when it involves a police sergeant. RELATED: Officer Killed on Lake Shore Drive - Too Icy or Not Enough Salt? Mayor Relents, Full Plowing Returns Streets and San Ready, Steady, Plow? Daley is the New Bilandic: More Plow Problems - Chicagoist Leave a Comment * Conservative T-Shirts * Follow CNB on Twitter * RSS Feed