A destructive chase across the city of Joliet apparently began when an off-duty deputy flipped off a driver who had also tossed a McDonald’s drink at him.
The April 4, 2021, crash on Plainfield Road resulted in the hospitalization of several people, a lawsuit and criminal charges against fired Will County Sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Schwartz, 38, and George Kou-Kou, 21.
An internal investigation by Will County Lt. Dan Troike led him to conclude that even if Schwartz was on duty at the time of the incident, his actions were not justified under the sheriff’s office pursuit policy, according to redacted version of reports obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request.
“Deputy Schwartz is a traffic deputy and is tasked with preventing and investigating these types of incidents,” Troike said in his report.
The investigation led Will County Sheriff Mike Kelley to fire Schwartz.
According to Troike’s report, Vern Sjogreen, a passenger in Kou-Kou’s vehicle, claimed Schwartz “produced his middle finger” to Kou-Kou, which caused him “to become upset,” Troike said.
Sjogreen said Kou-Kou followed Schwartz’s vehicle and tossed a McDonald’s cup full of soda at his vehicle, prompting Schwartz to put his vehicle in reverse and leading to him hitting Kou-Kou’s vehicle, Troike said.
Schwartz’s account was redacted in the report except for his challenges to Troike’s findings.
Schwartz claimed a passenger in Kou-Kou’s vehicle was “manipulating his hand/fingers into a gun after reaching under the seat, implying that he had/would use a gun.”
Schwartz’s said that moments before Kou-Kou’s vehicle struck his vehicle, a passenger “threw an unknown liquid into the open back window of my truck.”
That caused the “unknown liquid to explode inside my vehicle, spraying all over me and the interior of my truck,” according to Schwartz.
Schwartz said both of those actions show “both the potentially violent nature of the passenger as well as evidence of several crimes committed against me, including an aggravated battery that occurred on a public way.”
Troike said he reviewed 911 calls that were placed and never heard “any mention of an implied handgun.”
Troike reviewed video evidence that captured the vehicles at Larkin Avenue and West Jefferson Street. The chase went all the way to South Chicago Street and then eventually to Plainfield Road.
A video from a business on that road showed Kou-Kou’s vehicle “come into view traveling westbound, crossing the center line into oncoming traffic and subsequently crashing head-on into another vehicle,” the report said.
Troike’s report noted at one point Schwartz lost sight of Kou-Kou but was “able to to drive around the area searching for Kou-Kou” and resume his pursuit.