Thursday, March 24, 2011

Town of Cicero urges legislature to adopt Flores-Lagunas law

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Town of Cicero urges legislature to adopt Flores-Lagunas law

Cicero – Cicero Town President Larry Dominick urged members of the Illinois Legislature to adopt a new law (House Bill 1241) that would make it mandatory for every driver involved in an accident with fatalities or injuries to take a drug and alcohol breathalyzer test.

Dominick introduced the legislation with the support of State Rep. Lisa Hernandez in the House and State Sen. Martin Sandoval in the Senate last year after a Chicago police officer who had been drinking struck and killed two Cicero residents.

Instead of requiring the officer involved to take a breathalyzer test, he was allowed to immediately leave the scene where Miguel Flores, 22, and Erick Lagunas, 21 were killed.

The police officer driving the car that struck Lagunas and Flores is John Ardelean. Ardelean was assigned to the Belmont District where the accident occurred and it was his police colleagues who investigated the accident and allowed him to leave.

“Under the Lagunas-Flores Law, everyone would be required to take a breathalyzer test removing the option of a choice or the possibility of favoritism,” Dominick said at Tuesday’s Cicero Town Board meeting.

“Police should not be put in a situation where they have to chose between what is right and their friendships.”

Hernandez told members of the Town of Cicero board at their meeting Tuesday that the bill had passed committee.

“I believe that there is strong support for this new law,” Hernandez said. “This is an issue of justice. This law needs to be passed.”

Hernandez said that she expects the law to go before the full House membership possibly as soon as next week. The Illinois Legislature is out of session this week. If approved by the House, it will go to the Senate for a vote and if approved there would need the signature of Gov. Pat Quinn.

“Even if the officer of the vehicle had not been drinking, requiring the driver to take a breathalyzer test will put to rest suspicions that he was given a pass by his police colleagues. Police need the confidence and trust of the public to do their jobs effectively. This tragic incident not only took two innocent lives, it undermined the trust the public has in the Chicago police,” said Dominick who was a Cicero Police officer before being elected Town President in 2005.

Last April, Cook County Criminal Court Judge Thomas V. Gainer Jr., approved a motion to suppress DUI evidence against Chicago Police Officer John Ardelean. Ardelean was charged with aggravated DUI and reckless homicide in the crash that killed Flores and Lagunas.

Family members believe that had Ardelean been forced to take a breathalizer test immediately at the scene of the accident, the outcome and evidence would have been different.

Gainer also threw out video-tapped evidence showing Ardelean at a bar drinking five shots of liquor minutes before getting in to his car, further angering the family and the community.

The accident occurred on Thanksgiving Day in 2007. Ardelean’s attorney argued before Gainer that Ardelean’s colleagues at the Belmont Police District who responded to the crash claimed they did not see Ardelean showing signs of being drunk. He did take a breathalyzer test seven hours later, which according to news reports showed a blood-alcohol content level of .032, just under half of the legal limit.

Ironically, Chicago police tackled and arrested Flores’ relatives when they expressed anger at Gainer’s rulings.

“This is a tragic case and justice was not served,” Dominick said.