Sheriff fired deputy for violations connected to crash, records show

Sheriff said deputy placed ‘public at risk’

The scene of a two-vehicle crash on Sunday, April 4, 2021, on Plainfield Road in Joliet

Will County Sheriff Mike Kelley fired a deputy after finding an internal investigation sustained allegations of misconduct against him in connection with a major Joliet traffic crash, records show.

In a letter dated April 21, Kelley informed Andrew Schwartz, 38, of his firing after an internal investigation of Schwartz’s actions during a chase that resulted in a crash, according to records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Kelley’s letter said Schwartz was found in violation of the sheriff’s office rules of conduct. A pre-disciplinary meeting on the matter was March 28.

Andrew Schwartz

Schwartz got into a “roadway confrontation” with occupants of another vehicle and he chased that vehicle “recklessly through the streets,” Kelley said in the letter.

“This chase resulted in you violating numerous traffic laws, thus placing the public at risk,” Kelley said.

Kelley was referring to an April 4, 2021, crash that sent six people – including two children – to the hospital.

Schwartz and George Kou-Kou, 21, were both indicted Dec. 8 on a charge each of felony aggravated reckless driving in connection with the incident. Their cases are pending.

George Kou-Kou

Schwartz was off duty and driving a Dodge Ram pickup when he chased Kou-Kou for more than 10 minutes, pursuing him from the west side of Joliet, over the Des Plaines River on Interstate 80 to Chicago Street and back again to Plainfield Road on the city’s west side, according to the indictment.

On Plainfield Road near Frederick Street, Kou-Kou, who was heading northwest, lost control of his car, entered the southeast lanes and crashed into an oncoming vehicle, Joliet police said.

Philip Juarez, his wife and his two children were the occupants of the vehicle struck by Kou-Kou, police said.

Juarez filed a lawsuit March 14 against Will County and Kelley, blaming him for Schwartz’s actions.

Will County Sheriff Mike Kelley (left) and Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow speak Sept. 19 at a news conference at the Will County Sheriff's Office Public Safety Complex in Joliet. The Will County Drug Court was awarded a $500,000 grant through a federal program.

The lawsuit accuses Schwartz and Kou-Kou of negligence in the events leading up to the crash and claims Schwartz committed willful and wanton conduct.

Jeff Tomczak, attorney for Schwartz, unsuccessfully motioned for dismissal of the aggravated felony charge. Tomczak said the charge was vague and did not contain allegations to support it.

Special Prosecutor Bill Elward said Schwartz was charged appropriately and the indictment “spells out the defendant’s conduct and the grave consequences to the victims of his and Kou-Kou’s conduct.”

Schwartz is scheduled for a jury trial on Aug. 1.

Kou-Kou’s case is still in the pretrial stage. On April 19, he was found noncompliant with drug testing and jailed. He will not be released until May 15, about a week before his next pretrial hearing.