Family questions police after driver of fatal hit-and-run receives minimal charges

CHICAGO — The family of a man who was fatally hit by a car is asking police for answers regarding the driver's minimal consequences.

On June 20, Jesus Vilchez, 52, was trying to buy a cell phone from someone he met on the social media site Letgo, but instead he was fatally hit by the car on Liberty Street near Halsted Street. The car then fled the scene.

Now, his family is asking why there haven’t been more consequences for the driver.

Vilchez was a cook at Joy Yee on the University of Illinois at Chicago campus. He stepped out while working to buy the cellphone.

“He took a break, went out to meet him in the alley near his work and he never came back," Arturo Jauregui, Pilsen Law Center, said.

Surveillance video obtained by his family showed him walking down the street when he was hit by the car. His body was dragged down the street.

“He was struck by a black Pontiac vehicle in a reckless manner," Jauregui said. "The driver of the vehicle fled the scene.”

He was rushed to Stroger Hospital, but a few days later, he was taken off life support.

A crash report filled out by the UIC Police Department says the car “drove off at a high rate of speed," dragging Vilchez until he was thrown to the ground.

Even though police found the driver and questioned him, they later let him go.

“There are a lot of questions," Jauregui said. "The family wants to know what happened.”

The Vilchez family is now suing the driver for wrongful death and want to know why neither the state’s attorney nor police are pursuing a more serious criminal case.

Even though Vilchez died, the driver has only been charged with reckless conduct.

“I just feel like if this would have been somebody else and I hate to say race, but it does seem like that," Janet Vilchez, family member, said.

They family said they are frustrated with campus police.

"I feel frustrated with police not taking any action," Leon Vilchez, family member, said. "We feel discriminated against."

The family hopes more people who saw what happened will come forward and help them find answers.

“I need people to come forward," Eva Marie Vilchez, Vilchez's wife, said. "They need to follow up on this case. This was a human life that got killed."

A spokesperson for the university said campus police conducted a thorough investigation. They interviewed both people in the car and a witness and, at the time, the state’s attorney did not approve charges, so they had to let the driver go. They said this is an ongoing investigation and they are keeping the family informed.

WGN News reached out to campus police for comment, but did not hear back.

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