Police arrest suspect in fatal 2019 Maywood crash

The family of a beloved Maywood woman who died on Father’s Day 2019 during a controversial police chase of a stolen car has some closure now that police have arrested a man they think was driving the stolen car.

Gabriel Ruiz, who is 21 and from Chicago, was picked up by police in Maywood on Wednesday.

Ruiz was charged with felony reckless homicide for allegedly killing Ruth Johnson, who was 40 years old. Ruiz was given a $150,000 bond.

The crash happened on June 16, 2019, around 11:30 a.m. Former Maywood Police Chief Valdimir Talley said at the time that an officer saw that the car had broken a traffic rule and turned on the lights on his squad car.

He said that was when “the kids took off.” Police said that a group of young people were in the car and driving south when it crashed into a vehicle driven by Edward N. Owens near the 400 block of 1st Avenue, between Randolph and Pine.

Johnson, who was in Owens’ car on the passenger side, died from his injuries, but Owens, who was also severely hurt, lived.

A few days after the accident, the police picked up two teens who were allegedly in the stolen car.

Police said at the time that there wasn’t enough proof to charge the teens, so they were let go.

In an interview on November 20, Ruth Johnson’s sister, Paula Ali, said she was glad to hear that Ruth Johnson had been arrested. “I feel good,” she said.

“I feel good and happy because I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. So many pieces are still missing from that puzzle.

I hope [Ruiz] will be honest and talk so that everyone can be held responsible.”

Johnson’s death shocked the Maywood community, where she was known for her skills and talents on the basketball court as a member of the Triton College women’s basketball team, as a caregiver, and as a poet.

Triton College gave Johnson a degree after he died in November 2019. The ceremony occurred during a women’s basketball game, where Johnson’s framed jersey was given to Ali and other family members.

Triton spokesperson Tim McKinney said at the time, “The family, players, and fans were told about a special person who was the youngest of 10 children and often gave more than she got.”

People in the neighbourhood said that Johnson “often went to see the sick and fed the homeless. She took care of many sick family members and friends as a caregiver,” he said.

“She was always helping someone. “One day, she gave her last $20 bill and her shoes to a homeless person,” McKinney said.

Ali said of her sister in 2019: “She actually taught us how to love, forgive, and be kind to everyone.”

Ruiz’s recent arrest is a sign of hope in a tragedy that has been clouded by controversy up until now.

In 2020, Ali’s family sued the village of Maywood and three Maywood police officers, among other people, for wrongful death.

Days after the crash, the former police chief of Maywood, Valdimir Talley, denied that police were chasing the stolen car, even though dashboard camera footage showed that they were.

The former chief also said that the Cook County Sheriff’s Office and the Illinois State Police were looking into the crash, but both agencies denied involvement in the case a few months later.

The lawsuit also showed evidence that Maywood police started the chase “without the help of an in-car camera video, a dash-cam, or any other video recording device” and “had no reason to start the chase other than that the GMC SUV driver had allegedly disobeyed a stop sign.”

Talley said in October that Maywood police did their own internal investigation into the crash, but he still asked the village board to bring in a private contractor from outside to look into it.

LWM Research, Inc., a private investigation company based in Huntley, was hired by the board to look into the crash. Huntley charged $125 an hour to the village.

The board said that after every 40 hours of work, the firm should let the village know how the investigation is going.

But it wasn’t clear if this happened often, and the village hasn’t said what the investigation found.

Ali and other Johnson family members held a protest in June 2020 in front of the Maywood Police Department, 125 S. 5th Ave., to get local politicians and village officials to look into the case more seriously.

During the interview on November 20, Ali wouldn’t say anything about how the lawsuit was going. Instead, she told reporters to ask her lawyers.

She said that she and her family hope that Ruiz and his accomplices will all be found guilty.

She said, “I hope the Cook County State’s Attorney does the right thing for the victims.” But I’m glad he’s been caught.

Next month, Ruiz will be back in court. Ali said that she and her family would be there.

Source: Village Free Press

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