Oak Lawn village manager placed on paid leave after hit-and-run arrest

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OAK LAWN, Ill. — The Oak Lawn Village Board placed manager Larry Deetjen on paid administrative leave Monday after he was arrested in connection with a hit-and-run that left a man critically injured Thursday.

According to a witness, 48-year-old Mark Berkshire was carrying shopping bags across the street near 101st Street and Harlem Avenue in Chicago Ridge when he was struck by a car around 8:30 p.m. Thursday. The vehicle left the scene after the crash, and Berkshire was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in critical condition.

Later, police found the damaged vehicle at Deetjen’s home and took him into custody. He told investigators he didn't realize he struck someone. Charges have not been filed in the case.

The village board met in a special closed session for about an hour Monday before voting unanimously to place him on leave until the investigation is complete. Deetjen did not attend the meeting.

Oak Lawn Village President Dr. Sandra Bury said they're acting in a "prudent way" because the investigation is ongoing and charges have not been filed.

"We discussed that we don’t have facts, it’s a pending investigation," Bury said.

Police said Deetjen passed a breathalyzer after his arrest, but further testing is being done to determine if drugs or alcohol may have played a role.

Village officials say they expect legal action since Deetjen was driving a village-owned vehicle when he hit Berkshire. He has been Oak Lawn's village manager since 2007.

"That could be some big bucks," longtime Oak Lawn Resident resident Jim Perisin said during the meeting Monday.

Some residents expressed support for the decision to wait until charges are filed.

"I think that’s the right thing to do, until they find out what happen and they shouldn’t jump to conclusions too fast," Ronald Schreader said.

Others had more decisive opinions. Perisin described the penalty as a "slap on the wrist."

"I think he should be forced to resign or fired immediately… even he hasn’t been found, he left the scene," Paul Boland said. "That’s always a sign of guilt when you leave the scene."

At last check, Berkshire remains in the hospital with a serious head injury. His family has requested no information be given out about his condition.

Police Chief Randy Palmer was named acting village manager in the interim, and is serving in addition to his police duties.

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