CHICAGO — A driver in a South Side drag race hit and killed a 40-year-old woman early Sunday, capping a weekend that saw street takeovers — including car stunts and racing — draw large crowds and occupy intersections across the city, including Downtown.
Separate street takeovers Downtown and in Pilsen where drivers drifted and did doughnuts in intersections led to at least nine arrests, seven impounded cars and six damaged police squad cars after participants threw fireworks, bricks, rocks and other objects at responding officers, police said.
At about 1:37 a.m. Sunday in the 6400 block of South Cicero Avenue in the Clearing neighborhood near Midway Airport, a 27-year-old man and 19-year-old woman, who were driving sedans, were going south on Cicero Avenue when the woman changed lanes and hit the man’s car and the 40-year-old woman, who was in the crosswalk, police said.
The pedestrian, Shawman Meireis, was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center where she was pronounced dead, officials said.
The drivers were speeding, police said. Department spokeswoman Michelle Tannehill said the crash was part of a drag racing event. Supt. David Brown later said the drivers might have been racing, but officers are still investigating.
The man was cited for an obstructed front windshield and not taking due care with a pedestrian in the roadway, police said. Officers were searching for the 19-year-old woman.
An investigation is ongoing.
Videos shared on social media also showed large crowds of people gathered in intersections in the West Loop and South Loop. There were also drag racing and drifting events in East Pilsen, Downtown and the Near West Side, police said.
The street racing comes about a month after City Council passed an ordinance that allows officers to impound cars used in drag racing and drifting. Officers can use social media and videos as evidence, according to the ordinance.
This weekend’s first arrests came about 1:50 a.m. Saturday in the 2500 block of South King Drive in the South Loop, police said. Officers saw someone drifting in the street with a man “hanging out of the window,” police said.
The driver, Juan Venegas, 18, was charged with disorderly conduct and possessing a replica gun or pellet gun and was cited for traffic offenses, police said. The passenger, Jose Castillo, 18, was charged with reckless conduct. The car was impounded.
Videos from the incident show what appear to be two drivers drifting in circles near McCormick Place as large crowds watched.
About 3:10 a.m. Saturday, officers stopped a driver who was “drifting and doing doughnuts” near Columbus Drive and Upper Wacker Drive, police said. The driver nearly hit an officer, police said.
Omar Daaboul, 19, of suburban Worth, was charged with felony aggravated assault on a police officer and was cited for traffic violations, police said.
The street takeovers continued the next morning. About 1:50 a.m. Sunday, officers responded to a call of drag racing and saw drivers blocking the intersection at Madison and Morgan streets. An 18-year-old man was cited for obstructing his license plate, and his car was impounded, police said.
Later that morning, at about 3 a.m., officers went to the 600 block of West Cermak Road in East Pilsen because a crowd of people had blocked the intersection, police said. People threw fireworks, rocks and other objects at the officers, and people stepped and jumped on the hoods of squad cars, police said.
Six police cars were damaged. No officers were injured, a spokesperson said.
Nobody was arrested because “there were so many people,” the spokesperson said.
On Saturday, police officials warned drivers on Twitter drag racing is dangerous, illegal and can “be very expensive.”
The new ordinance boosted fines for drag racing or drifting, adding $2,000 to the city’s existing drag racing fines of $5,000-$10,000, plus a $500 fee for towing.
About 1 a.m. Sunday, Nicholas Katsafados was celebrating his birthday with friends in the West Loop when he left a restaurant on Fulton Street and saw drivers had taken over about two blocks under the train tracks at the Morgan Green Line station. He filmed drivers drifting and doing doughnuts for about 30 minutes, with no police responding, he said.
“They just shut down the street,” he said. “We couldn’t leave because our cars were parked on that stretch, and we couldn’t get our cars out.”
Katsafados said some drivers and other participants wore ski masks and many had covered their license plates.
“It’s interesting to watch. But it’s also extremely dangerous because it’s really just a matter of time until either a drunk bystander or somebody who is not in complete control does something,” Katsafados said.
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