Video shows cop in bar before crash

August 22, 2008 1:18:11 PM PDT
ABC7 has obtained video from a security camera that shows an off duty Chicago police officer at a bar just hours before his car collided into another car, killing two young men.A judge ruled there wasn't enough evidence to take the officer to trial.

But family members of the victims hope that video can reopen a criminal case in the deadly crash.

While John Ardelean is seen drinking on the tape, the judge never saw the video because prosecutors chose not to use it as evidence during the preliminary hearing. At the victims' families' request, the Cook County state's attorney reopened the case after the judge's decision, but prosecutors concluded there was insufficient evidence to charge Ardelean again.

"All our family wants is for them to do the right thing. All our family wants is justice for Miguel and Eric," said Nancy Flores, victim's sister.

Flores said she is not giving up on justice even though she believes prosecutors already have.

It's been 10 months since Flores' brother Miguel and his best friend Eric Lagunas were killed in a Thanksgiving Day crash that involved off-duty police officer Ardelean. Prior to the deadly accident, the 34-year-old cop was seen at a North Side bar drinking.

"As you can see here, Mr. Ardelean is having a shot at the bar," said Dan O'Connor, family's attorney showing off the tape.

O'Connor said he is hoping the surveillance tape from the Martini Ranch will shed some new light on a case that is considered closed by the Cook County State's Attorney's Office.

Following a preliminary hearing, a judge ruled there was not enough evidence to prove that Ardelean was legally drunk at the time of the accident. But, the evidence presented in court did not include the videotape.

"That's evidence that clearly should have been seen. It clearly, in my mind, should have made a difference as to whether this prosecution went forward," said O'Connor.

Police reports and the state's attorney identify Ardelean as the man seen in the bar for more than two hours. The tape shows the off-duty cop drinking what appears to be five shots as well as other drinks in between. One shot is with the bartender, another is poured in his mouth by a woman.

At the end, Ardelean puts on his hat and the bartender hands him a bottle to go. According the time on the bar video, 12 minutes later Ardelean's Dodge Durango collided with the Pontiac carrying Flores and Lagunas near the corner of Oakdale and Damen.

"It makes me sad to see that they didn't pay as much attention to the video," said Nancy Flores.

A spokesperson with the Cook County State's Attorney's Office says prosecutors chose not to use the videotape because it did not support their case.

Cook County State's Attorney spokesman John Gorman says, "The tape does not show any signs of drinking, such as staggering or stumbling." At the preliminary hearing, the bartender testified that he did serve Ardelean two beers, a rum and coke and a shot of tequila. The bartender says the remainder of the shots were water.

Refusing a field sobriety test, Ardelean took a breathalyzer at his own Police District 7 hours after the accident. He registered half under the legal limit.

"He gets a pass. And why does he get that pass?" O'Connor said.

On the phone Wednesday, the bartender reiterated that all but one of Ardelean's shots were water.

ABC7 left messages for Ardelean and his attorney.

A Chicago Police Department spokesperson says Ardelean has been "relieved of his powers" and is on desk duty until the results of an internal investigation.

As for the victims, medical examiner toxicology reports show the blood alcohol content was under the legal limit for both driver Eric Lagunas and passenger Miguel Flores.


Load Comments