Edison Park crash: Retired Chicago police officer, 57, killed in hit-and-run; suspect at large

Haljean was also a Marine and father of 3
CHICAGO (WLS) -- A retired Chicago police officer was struck and killed by a vehicle Thursday night in Edison Park on the Northwest Side, and the driver of that car remains at large, CPD officials said Friday.

Witnesses said the victim, later identified as Richard Haljean, 57, was crossing the street near the bus stop on the opposite side of the road in the 7600-block of West Touhy Avenue around 6:15 p.m. when he was struck.

The driver was behind the wheel of a Jeep that just kept on going and fled the scene, police said.

"The person probably panicked and was concerned about their own well-being and their future and safety, but, you know, as a human being, you gotta stop," Haljean's friend Chris Brown said.

Haljean was taken to Lutheran General Hospital where he was pronounced dead, police said.

CPD spokesman Tom Ahern said Haljean was a retired member of the police department who lived in the area. He served more than 30 years on the force.

Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara said he retired in May 2020.

He was also a Marine and father of three.

"It's sad, it's heartbreaking, every adjective you can think of," said Lt. John Garrido, another friend of Haljean.

"I'm just distraught about his death, just the way he died," said fellow friend, Bobby Drell.

Chicago police are still trying to track down evidence and tips that could lead to an arrest.

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The neighborhood is quite residential, but being just off Harlem and so close to Interstate 294, those who live nearby said that stretch of Touhy is quite dangerous and has seen a handful of accidents just over the last year, as vehicles speed through the area.

"No cars stop; people fly down here. We've had cops sit down there last summer where the buses pull over just to see how many people flew past here, and they must've stopped like four cars," said nearby resident Sharon Sands.

Some neighbors said they're afraid to cross the street.

"It is scary, and I think part of the issue is that this particular stretch of Touhy Avenue is in between 294 and 94, and a lot of truck traffic, a lot of people rushing to get home," said Conan Kisor, who lives near the scene.

There was no one in custody Friday.

"The Chicago Police Department extends its sincere condolences to the family, friends and former colleagues of recently retired Officer Richard Haljean. He succumbed to his injuries yesterday, after being struck by a vehicle in a hit and run accident. Rest In Peace, Hero," the Chicago Police Department said in a statement on Twitter.

State Rep. Brad Stephens took to Facebook Friday morning to say, "My heart goes out to the family of retired Chicago Police Officer Richard Haljean who was tragically killed yesterday evening."

Friends remembered Haljean Friday as someone who loved his job and his kids.

"He was such a fine person. Fine individual. Caring, kind, loving, now he's gone," Drell said.

Brown added that they were life-long friends.

"I can remember when he was interested in getting a job in law enforcement, and then when the Chicago police job was offered to him he was very excited, and I think he considered it his dream job," Brown said.

He added that Haljean loved to catch up on old times and he was recently dealing with some health issues.

"For a nice guy to have health problems that he was dealing with, to have to go, and this way, it's tragic. And to know somebody didn't care enough to stay and see how it was is heartbreaking," Brown said. "Just thinking about his family trying to spend as much time as they can with him and to have it cut short like this is just terrible."

"Trying to do as much as you can with your life with however much time you have left and to have it just snatched away from you like this, it's heartbreaking," Garrido said.

Haljean leaves behind three children.

"To have the life that he's had and all the things that he's gone through, his military service and his police service, to end this way is just tragic," Garrido said. "They're going to find you. There is an investigation and you're going to be found."

The Major Accidents Investigations Unit is investigating the incident and anyone with information can leave an anonymous tip at cpdtip.com.

Sun-Times Media contributed to this report.

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