Police officer tackles suspect in high-speed chase

January 26, 2011 8:16:44 PM PST
A police officer tackled a carjacking suspect who officials say crashed a stolen taxi after a wild chase through several suburbs.

The high-speed chase -- in which the carjacker ran through stoplights, around vehicles and crossed into oncoming traffic -- originated in Des Plaines around 6 a.m. Wednesday. The chase continued through at least five suburbs, including Morton Grove, Niles, Skokie and Evanston, and ended with a car crash just before 7 a.m. at North Clark and West Columbia in Rogers Park.

Just before he was captured, the driver clipped a school bus, partially tearing off the front bumper of the bus, and hit a light pole. He then climbed out of the vehicle through the driver's side window and was chased on foot by Chicago police, who tackled and arrested him after he slipped on an ice patch.

No children were on board the school bus. But the driver of the bus was taken to St. Francis Hospital for treatment. The suspect was also taken to St. Francis.

Charges have not been filed yet.

The white minivan taxi belonged to a company in Rosemont. The cab driver who was carjacked is identified as 65-year-old Ilias Papaioannou. Rosemont Elite Taxi says he is physically OK but mentally shaken up.

"He's been with Rosemont Elite Taxi for over 20 years, so he's one of our veteran drivers," said Alice Catalano, Rosemont Elite Taxi.

Police say the cab driver picked up the suspect at the Crowne Plaza in Rosemont. The suspect asked to be driven to a Subway restaurant in Des Plaines for a fast stop. The suspect allegedly tried to rob the Subway. The manager, Jose Santiago, fought back. RAW VIDEO: Subway worker fights suspect

"It's not a smart thing, but it was a reaction. He was hit first and then he reacted," said Cynthia Padilla, Subway spokesperson.

The suspect then ran out and punched the cab driver, stole his keys and fled at a high rate of speed, according to police.

The chase first wound through Morton Grove and into Skokie, where police followed the vehicle southbound on Crawford past Oakton around 6:20 a.m. The car spent part of the chase zig-zagging back and forth on sections of Church Street and Golf Road as well.

The chase ran through residential neighborhoods with reports of speeds upwards of 70 miles per hour in areas where the speed limit is only 20 or 30 miles per hour.

The taxi then went eastbound on Dempster in Evanston around 6:30 a.m. By 6:40 a.m., it had made its way past Linden and Central, traveled up Sheridan to Wilmette and onto Green Bay Road. It then circled back to Evanston southbound on Sheridan.

A spokesman for the Northwestern University police said the pursuit went through their campus about 6:45 a.m.

Authorities say the suspect has a history of criminal activity.

"Lots of convictions for robbery, escapes. He is a career criminal. He is an animal that shouldn't be on the streets," said Chief Jim Prandini, Des Plaines Police. "All the officers involved did a fantastic job of coordinating their efforts and taking him into custody. So we're very pleased."

Police from Chicago, Morton Grove, Skokie and Wilmette assisted in the pursuit.

Back at the taxi company, there's concern for a shaken-up colleague who refused medical treatment.

"He is the owner-operator of that vehicle and is responsible for the damage to the vehicle, so we're going to help him get on his feet and help him get back on the road so he can make his livelihood," Catalano.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.