John Kass, Chicago Tribune, January 4, 2011
Chicago politics didn’t kill William “Dennis” McCann.
What killed the 66-year-old man was that black Dodge Neon driven by an alleged drunken driver as McCann walked across Kedzie Avenue last summer.
But the politicians allowed the man charged in the fatal crash to skip out of jail despite pleas by federal authorities to hold him. Thanks to Chicago politicians, the alleged drunken driver is most likely hiding in Mexico.
“My anger is more directed at the fumbling and bumbling of Cook County agencies,” said McCann’s younger brother, Brian. “I’m more angry at the system than the offender. I know that sounds crazy.”
It happened June 8 on Kedzie Avenue in the Logan Square neighborhood. McCann was walking across Kedzie when he was hit by a car allegedly driven by Saul Chavez, 36, already convicted of one DUI.
But the driver didn’t stop. Instead, the driver stepped on the gas. The tires rolled over McCann, who had fallen to the ground, and then the underbelly of the car caught him and dragged his body north on Kedzie.
“I pull up to the passenger side screaming at him,” [witness Alberto] Aceves recalled. “Stop! The guy’s under your car.”
An off-duty police officer joined in the chase after he spotted a pair of sandals in the street and looked up to see McCann’s body being dragged. The car finally stopped, with McCann still lodged underneath, and Chavez allegedly tried to run. Aceves and the officer — gun in hand — chased after Chavez and caught him.
Two days after the fatal accident, on June 10, the federal Department of Homeland Security filed what is called an immigration detainer for Chavez. The agency believed he was an illegal immigrant from Mexico. The form requested that Cook County notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, if Chavez was scheduled to be released.
But as Chavez sat in the jail, immigration became an emotional issue before the Cook County Board. Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia pushed a new policy aimed at ignoring federal detainer requests and allowing suspected illegal immigrants who’d been jailed in misdemeanor or felony cases to make bond.
It passed by a 10-5 vote in September. The political payoff was obvious: It was a Democratic Party appeal to Latino voters over the hot-button issue of illegal immigration.
When the proposal was debated, the sheriff’s office warned that even those charged with serious crimes could be allowed to flee.
Commissioner Timothy Schneider was perhaps the loudest voice against the policy, warning that criminals would run off to Mexico, and that Cook County would become a laughingstock.
Thanks to Preckwinkle, Garcia and their friends on the county board, Chavez was released on bond Nov. 20. He put up $25,000 of the $250,000 bond amount, and walked. He missed one court date. Then prosecutors sought an emergency increase in the bail amount, and warrants were issued for Chavez’s arrest. He missed a second court date. He was gone.