Testimony begins in cop hit-and-run case

January 11, 2012 4:44:13 AM PST
The first witnesses took the stand Tuesday in the trial of a Chicago police officer accused in a drunken-driving crash that killed a teenager two-and-a-half years ago.

Prosecutors say Richard Bolling was off-duty when he struck and killed 13-year-old Trenton Booker and then drove away.

Booker was riding his bicycle when he was hit back in May 2009. In opening statements, prosecutors and defense attorneys offered a different account of what happened after the crash.

There is no dispute that the off-duty officer struck and killed the 13-year-old boy. What is in dispute, and what jury must decide, is: Was Bolling legally drunk and did his actions constitute reckless homicide?

Two families are watching this trial: the family of a 13-year-old boy who was killed and the family of a police officer accused of causing his death. Their visions of how justice is best served are at polar opposites.

Police officer Bolling went out for a few drinks with friends on a late May evening 2 1/2 years ago. He said he had one mixed drink and parts of two beers at a bar on South Cottage, and then left. A short time later, Bollings' Dodge Charger traveling -- witnesses say -- at twice the posted speed limit struck and killed Booker while he was riding his bike on Ashland Avenue at 81st with a friend.

It was 1:30 in the morning, and Booker had left his home without his parents' knowledge.

On the stand Tuesday, witnesses said the youngster and his bike were thrown into the air on impact and that the car never slowed. The brakes were never applied, and the driver kept going.

Officer Bolling was arrested minutes later driving the wrong way down a nearby one-way street. The arresting cops found an open beer in the car and gave Bolling a field sobriety test. They said he didn't seem impaired, and Bollings lawyer said tape from their squad car camera will support that.

But Bolling initially refused a breathalyzer test. Four and a half hours later -- after an Internal Affairs sergeant insisted --- Bolling did submit to a breathalyzer. His blood alcohol was .079, .001 below the level of being legally drunk.

Prosecutors will call experts who will contend that had Bolling's blood alcohol been taken in a more timely fashion he would have been beyond .08.

Bolling, who was stripped of his police powers after the accident, will testify in his own defense at some point later in the trial. He will say what his lawyer said for him Tuesday, that he was not drunk, that he did not cause the accident -- he claims the boy swerved into him -- and he did nto ask for nor receive any preferential treatment from fellow officers.

This trial could go to the jury within a week.