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Edgebrook, Edison Park, Sauganash

Retired Police Officer Richard Haljean, Killed In NW Side Hit-And-Run, Remembered For His Big Smile And Decades Of Service

The Jefferson Park native loved being a police officer, which was a dream of his from a young age. Family and friends are raising money for his teenage children to help with their future education.

Retired Chicago Police officer Richard “Rick” Haljean was the victim of a fatal hit-and-run last week in Edison Park.
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EDISON PARK — Retired Chicago Police officer Richard “Rick” Haljean was an active volunteer, friend and proud father who enjoyed giving back to his neighborhood, friends and family said.

They are mourning the loss of 57-year-old Haljean, who died in a hit-and-run last week in Edison Park. On Thursday, he was crossing the street in the 7600 block of West Touhy Avenue when someone driving a Jeep west on Touhy hit him and then fled, police said.

The Jefferson Park native loved being a police officer, which was a dream of his from a young age, said his brother Peter Haljean.

“My brother’s only mission in life, since we were in grammar school, was to be a policeman to help the community,” he said.

Robert Drell (right), poses for a photo with longtime friend and retired officer Rick Haljean, who passed away Jan. 20 after getting hit by a car in Edison Park. Drell is organizing a fundraiser to raise money to help with education expenses for Haljean’s three children.

Rick Haljean started out as an officer in suburban Harwood Heights before joining the Chicago Police Department, where he worked for 27 years.

Most recently, he worked for the Airport Law Enforcement section before retiring in 2020 due to health issues related to Huntington’s disease.

He had recently moved to Edison Park to be closer to his children, Peter Haljean said. Despite his health problems, he was still able to live on his own and had a strong sense of independence.

“He loved sports, loved Chicago and loved his brothers he worked with,” he said. “There is not one person that would say one bad thing about him. He got along with everybody and wouldn’t harm a fly.”

The brothers were Irish twins and always celebrated with a joint birthday party on Nov. 17, his brother said. Rick Haljean’s birthday was Nov. 18 and Peter Haljean’s is Nov. 16.

For two days, the younger Haljean relished being the same age as his older brother.

“Every year on the 17th, people would call us and say, ‘how old are you?’ because they knew we were the same age,” he said.

John Garrido, a lieutenant in the 16th Police District who worked with Rick Haljean in the 25th Police District more than 20 years ago, called him a dear friend and an outstanding and empathetic officer.

“He was a badass,” Garrido said. “He was super friendly and always had a smile on his face… he didn’t have an angry face some officers develop after many years.”

Rick Haljean was active in the community and a big supporter of Garrido’s Stray Rescue Foundation, he said.

He was always sharing information about the dog rescue and other charities on social media in an effort to support his community and his police officer friends, Peter Haljean said.

He also enjoyed volunteering at Dunham Park, where he grew up playing baseball and ice hockey, his brother said. In his free time, he volunteered as an umpire for ball games or coached kids.

Family and friends are raising money for Rick Haljean’s three teenage children to help with their future education. So far, the fundraiser has raised over $15,000 in two days out of its $100,000 goal — a testament to the number of lives he touched, his brother said.

Police said no one is in custody for the hit-and-run, but the incident remains under investigation.

“The Chicago Police Department extends its sincere condolences to the family, friends and former colleagues of recently retired Officer Richard Haljean,” a Chicago Police Department spokesman posted on Twitter. “He succumbed to his injuries yesterday, after being struck by a vehicle in a hit and run accident. Rest In Peace, Hero.”

Since his death, the Edison Park Community Council has ramped up efforts to slow down speeding cars on Touhy Avenue, where Rick Haljean was hit. It was the second pedestrian fatality in two years in the area, according to the community group.

“In both cases, neighborhood residents had long complained of high speeds, countless near misses and the dangerous nature of the roadways where these collisions occurred,” the Edison Park Community Council said in a statement. “It is long past time that these concerns be taken seriously, that comprehensive changes made to prevent further injury and death, and that appropriate steps be taken to make Edison Park a safer place to live.”

A funeral and visitation for Rick Haljean will be held from 3- 9 p.m. Thursday at Cumberland Chapels, 8300 W. Lawrence Ave. in Norridge. Peter Haljean invites the community to pay their respects.

Garrido said he last talked to his friend a week ago, but that his death is a reminder life can be fleeting and to always let loved ones know they are cared about.

“You always wish [that you] talked to him one more time,” he said. “You never know when your time is going to come.”

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