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Pilsen, Little Village, West Loop

West Loop Workers Chased And Held Hit-And-Run Driver Who Killed A Cyclist, Prosecutors Say

Courtney Bertucci was arrested Monday and charged with reckless homicide, failure to report an accident resulting in death and drug possession in connection with the April 16 crash in West Loop.

Paresh Dinseh Chhatrala, 42, was killed after a hit-and-run driver struck him while he was riding his bicycle near Madison and Peoria streets April 16.
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WEST LOOP — Several people who saw a 30-year-old driver hit and kill a bicyclist in April followed the woman as she sped away from the scene, eventually cornering her and holding her for police as she kept trying to run away, prosecutors said in court Tuesday.

Courtney Bertucci, of suburban Joliet, was arrested Monday and charged with reckless homicide, failure to report an accident resulting in death and possession of a controlled substance in the April 16 crash in the West Loop.

Prosecutors said Bertucci was the driver who hit and killed bicyclist Paresh Dinseh Chhatrala after swerving into oncoming traffic. Bertucci the drove off, going several blocks with Chhatrala’s bike lodged under her car until the witnesses stopped her, police and prosecutors said.

Bertucci initially was only charged with drug possession after officers found heroin in her car, prosecutors said. She was ordered held on $150,000 bond Tuesday after a Cook County judge said she was a flight risk because she failed to turn herself in when the more serious charges were approved.

The crash occurred around 10:10 p.m. April 16 in the 900 block of West Madison Avenue.

Credit: GoFundMe
Paresh Dinseh Chhatrala, 42, was killed April 16 when a hit-and-run driver struck him with her car in West Loop, authorities said.

Three people who were leaving work nearby and driving behind Bertucci on Madison Street saw Bertucci driving her silver Volkswagen Jetta erratically for several blocks, blowing through two stop signs and swerving into oncoming traffic, prosecutors said. The witnesses continued to drive behind Bertucci and grew concerned she would hurt someone, noticing several people milling about the area, prosecutors said.

As Bertucci approached the intersection of Peoria and Madison, she again swerved into oncoming traffic and slammed into Chhatrala, who was riding his bicycle west on Madison, prosecutors said. Chhatrala was thrown into the air, slammed into the windshield and thrown to the ground, causing massive head and facial trauma, police and prosecutors said. Bertucci did not stop or slow down, and continued driving east on Madison with Chhatrala’s bike lodged under her car, police and prosecutors said.

While several people ran to help Chhatrala, a driver who’d been behind Bertucci and a DoorDash driver who heard the crash both began chasing Bertucci in their cars, prosecutors said. The DoorDash driver also called 911 to give police Bertucci’s location and license plate information as they followed her, prosecutors said.

Bertucci finally pulled over in the 100 block of South Aberdeen Street, about five blocks from the crash, prosecutors said. At that point, the witness and the DoorDash driver parked their cars behind and alongside Bertucci’s, boxing her in so she could not flee, prosecutors said. The DoorDash driver went to Bertucci’s car and took the keys out of the ignition while all four witnesses confronted her about the crash, prosecutors said. Bertucci denied that she’d hit anyone with her car, prosecutors said.

One witness told police Bertucci’s eyes were wide and dilated, and she appeared to be intoxicated, prosecutors said.

Bertucci then ran down a nearby alley, but the four witnesses chased and restrained her until officers arrived on the scene, prosecutors said.

Nearby surveillance, pod and Ring doorbell video captured the crash, Bertucci driving away with Chhatrala’s bicycle under her car and the witnesses boxing in Bertucci on Aberdeen Street. Three witnesses all identified Bertucci as the driver.

Chhatrala, 42, was hospitalized in critical condition but died at Stroger Hospital April 20, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office. Chhatrala’s friends launched a GoFundMe to raise money for his family to pay medical and funeral expenses. As of Tuesday morning, it has raised $40,401  of its $50,000 goal.

Officers arrested Bertucci and found a small bag of heroin in her car, prosecutors said. As officers drove her to the police station, Bertucci began talking on her phone, prompting police to pull over to take her phone, prosecutors said. Officers then found several more baggies of heroin and she was charged with drug possession, prosecutors said.

Chicago police’s Major Accidents division began investigating the crash and charged Bertucci with reckless homicide and failure to report an accident resulting in death. An arrest warrant was issued when she did not show up to court and the Great Lakes Fugitive Task Force arrested her Monday in suburban Addison, prosecutors said.

Bertucci’s lawyer said she lives in the city with her mother, works for a cleaning service and volunteers with an organization that spays and neuters pets. The lawyer denied Bertucci was trying to evade the arrest warrant.

The judge disagreed, saying that while she may have been under the influence when tried to run away from the scene, that doesn’t explain her not showing up to court to face the more severe charges.

“Miss Bertucci was aware that these charges were coming, [she] had a court date and date when she was supposed to appear and present herself with her attorney to surrender herself on these matters,” the judge said. “That type of flight from the court is different than the type of flight where perhaps her mind was not in the right state due to drug use. That was a more knowing and knowledgeable … display of not following the court’s order, knowing that she had to turn herself in.”

Bertucci is due back in court June 24.

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