Driver faces felony in studio crash

Sister apologizes for actions
December 24, 2007 4:39:44 PM PST
An Evanston man has been charged with felony damage to property after his minivan crashed into ABC7's State Street Studio Sunday night. Gerald Richardson, 25, will appear in court on Tuesday, December 25.

Richardson is accused of driving his Mazda minivan into the glass wall of ABC7's State Street studio shortly after the beginning of the 10 p.m. news. The impact shattered the glass.

The ABC7 News Team, including anchor Ravi Baichwal, was startled, but no one was injured inside the studio or outside, where crowds gather to watch the show.

"All of a sudden, 5 seconds after I'm off the air I hear this incredible bam," said Phil Schwarz, ABC7 meteorologist. "It shook the entire building."

Witnesses say Richardson made a series of U-turns on State Street before crashing into the studio.

"I saw a minivan do about four or five U-turns and then he pulled off to the side of the road and we didn't think much of it but then we were watching the news and we heard a big crash and he was in the window," said Tyler Cloutier, witness.

As the newscast continued, police responded and took Richardson into custody.

He didn't want to get arrested. He started fighting. He said, 'What did I do?' He got out of the van. He was like, 'What did I do wrong?' It was pretty scary," said Ryan Kamplain, witness.

No one would answer the door at Richardson's Evanston apartment on Monday.

"He seemed pretty calm to me, you know. I mean, this is a surprise to me, I'm shocked," said Travis Dacosta, Richardson's neighbor. Richardson's family told Chicago's newspapers that he has a history of behavioral problems and they were planning to take him for a psychiatric evaluation after the holidays. His sister apologized on behalf of her family to everyone.

Crews worked to remove the minivan and board up the studio's window overnight. The building's architects and engineers reviewed the damage and determined the studio is structurally sound- and the glass walls held up exactly as they were supposed to in a situation of this sort.

"It absolutely worked exactly the way it was supposed to work because the glass actually stopped the car from really getting into the studio," said Emily Barr, WLS-TV president and general manager.

Barr said the outer pane of tempered glass took the brunt of the impact, and stopped the minivan from entering the studio. Also, the glad did not shatter.

"Thankfully, nobody was anywhere near the car when it struck the glass and that's what I'm most grateful for, glass can be replaced, people can't," said Barr.

The Cook County State's Attorney's Office said more should be revealed on whether or not the crash was deliberate during the bond hearing Tuesday. Richards was also charged with two counts of resisting a police officer. He faces two traffic citations- reckless driving and not having any vehicle insurance.


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