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Child Killed in DUI Crash; Chicago Heights Police Sued

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By Jason Beahm on June 17, 2010 1:45 PM

Why would the Chicago police allegedly hand the keys to a man high on marijuana and intoxicated at three times the legal limit of alcohol, with a child in the back seat? And why would the man accept the keys and drive away?

It is a puzzling, tragic case that has left far more questions than answers. Forty-five minutes after Cecil Conner, 22, drove away from police, he reportedly hit several trees and Michael Langford Jr., a 5 year old child, was killed. Conner was arrested and charged with four counts of aggravated driving while intoxicated. The case has sparked outrage and lawsuits against the police.

It all began earlier that evening when 23 year old mother Kathie LaFond, her 5 year-old child and boyfriend Cecil Conner were driving home from a party in Conner's red 1998 Chevy Cavalier.

According to CBS 2, LaFond was pulled over for making an improper turn without a signal. When the police ran her information, they found that she was driving on a suspended license and arrested her. A second year police officer, who according to police was unaware that Conner was highly intoxicated, allegedly handed Conner the keys and allowed him to drive away from the scene. Apparently Conner did not volunteer any information about his intoxication and police said he "didn't seem drunk." According to the suit, LaFond told the officer she was the designated driver, but the officer still ordered Conner to drive away.  

Less than an hour later, the car violently crashed into several evergreen trees and the child was dead.

Now the family of the child is preparing to file two separate wrongful death suits against the Chicago Heights Police Dept. "The Chicago Heights cop should be in there too," Tim Roop, a cousin of Conner said. "This is half his blame." But Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow adamantly disagreed. "Certainly there's no mitigation for an individual who knows their condition and remains silent, taking advantage of bad judgment by someone else," Glasgow said. "If that's going to be an argument, it's going to go nowhere."

A wrongful death claim typically requires proving a negligent, reckless or intentional act by another party. According to the Chicago Tribune, the family has potential claims against both Conner and the police, though in their statements, it seems that they are focusing on the police for removing a sober driver from behind the wheel and replacing her with a drunk one. 

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