Woman struck in 2019 by Chicago police SUV died in January, leaving family with questions

Woman struck in 2019 by Chicago police SUV died in January, leaving family with questions
·4 min read

Forestine Williams stood in the South Shore location Tuesday morning where her daughter, Martina Standley, was struck by a Chicago police SUV almost three years ago. Now her daughter has died, and she doesn’t know why.

Williams was joined Tuesday by other family members, including children, nieces and nephews near 71st Street and Jeffery Boulevard at a news conference to talk about her daughter, who was 32 on Nov. 13, 2019, when a police officer turned the wheel of his SUV, knocking her down near 71st and Jeffery, causing serious injuries. Bodycam video showed Standley lying on the sidewalk and bleeding from her head while officers at the scene waited for paramedics.

Standley died in her sleep on Jan. 30 of this year, Williams said, five days after her 35th birthday. But she has yet to receive an autopsy report or death certificate showing Standley’s cause of death. She said she believes it was a direct result of the injuries she suffered in 2019.

“I believe and am totally convinced that it’s a cover-up with the city of Chicago,” she said.

Natalia Derevyanny, a spokeswoman for the Cook County medical examiner’s office, said in an email that the office was notified of Standley’s death Jan. 30 and that an autopsy was performed the next day.

But she added, “Ms. Standley’s case is complex and was pended so the office could conduct a medical records review from her 2019 accident and perform tests, including neuropath and toxicology, to help determine her cause and manner of death. The MEO is in the process of assessing the results of the records review and tests in order to accurately determine Ms. Standley’s cause and manner of death.

“We send our deepest condolences to Ms. Standley’s family and recognize they are awaiting our findings. The office is working diligently to close this case and bring closure to the family.”

Community organizer William Calloway, who was heavily involved in the aftermath of Laquan McDonald’s murder by Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke in 2014, has been fighting with the city since Standley’s accident for accountability and joined Williams on Tuesday.

Calloway said Standley’s case feels “very eerie and similar” to that of McDonald’s.

Williams said what happened to her daughter is especially sad for her family because Williams’ father was a Chicago police officer for 37 years.

“For his granddaughter’s death to be played out like this is terrible, and it’s unacceptable,” she said.

On Monday, Cook County Judge Alison Conlon ruled in favor of Calloway, who had sued the Chicago Police Department in 2019 for denying his FOIA request of “all dashcam, bodycam, audio recordings, and police reports collected as part of the investigation into the squad car striking Martina Standley in South Shore,” according to a news release about the case. He is being represented by Merrick Wayne, an attorney with Loevy & Loevy.

A Cook County judge last year ordered the release of two body camera videos as part of Calloway’s lawsuit.

The case is headed back to court next Wednesday to determine how much will be awarded in civil penalties, according to the news release. Calloway said he is seeking the maximum of $720,000 in civil penalties, and he is already getting $80,000 for lawyer fees following Monday’s ruling.

In an email to the Tribune, Kristen Cabanban, spokeswoman for the city’s Law Department, said “The city does not comment on ongoing litigation.”

Standley’s younger brother, Misterrico Standley, said that Standley was staying at his South Shore home for her birthday weekend with some other family members when she died. He said he went to work that morning “not knowing she was gone,” then got a phone call at work from one of their cousins to tell him what had happened.

“We’re waiting,” he said. “I still want to know what happened, especially because it happened at my place.”

Misterrico Standley said he cooked dinner for everyone, and they celebrated Standley’s birthday with a movie and karaoke night combo because “she liked to sing and rap.”

“She was full of life, full of joy,” he said.

Rain Standley said her older sister was the type of person that would “lighten up your day.”

“If you were down or you didn’t feel right, she would make you feel better,” Rain Standley said.

Calloway said he stands in solidarity with Standley’s family “to demand that the Cook County medical examiner’s office releases the autopsy report” to Standley’s mother.

“We’re demanding that the city of Chicago exercise the practice of transparency that they’ve been running on for the past four years,” Calloway said.

He said the “whole purpose” of FOIA is giving people the right to inspect their government, but “my city government is not respecting the state law.”

“They’re hiding something,” he said. “I can’t speculate, but if they’re willing to risk the department losing $720-plus thousand, I could probably insinuate there’s something sensitive in those emails they don’t want to be released to the public.”

sahmad@chicagotribune.com