By Bob Uphues
Riverside police are continuing to search for a Berwyn man who eluded capture in broad daylight on Oct. 25 after allegedly being involved in four separate hit-and-run accidents in Riverside and Lyons and sparking a two-and-a-half hour search of the Riverside Lawn area by officers and dogs from 12 law-enforcement agencies and a helicopter from Chicago.
Police Chief Thomas Weitzel said on Monday that police were actively attempting to locate the man, whom he described as someone with an "extremely violent criminal record."
At the suspect's last known address in Berwyn, a woman they interviewed said she hadn't seen the suspect since prior to Friday morning, when the incident took place. While the police search centered on the heavily wooded Riverside Lawn area, Weitzel said he suspects that the man made his escape to the south.
"We think he went back southbound again, because we had plenty of officers along the north side by the river," said Weitzel. "Somewhere along the line, he got through."
The suspect hasn't been named since he hasn't been charged. However, said Weitzel, if the search lasts much longer, he'll seek to obtain an arrest warrant and name the suspect.
Riverside District 96 schools and Riverside-Brookfield High School were not in session on Oct. 25. St. Mary School in Riverside was placed on a soft lockdown for a short period of time during the search, said Weitzel. That lockdown order was lifted after police determined that the suspect had not crossed the river north into Riverside.
The incident began innocently enough at about 8:40 a.m., when a Riverside police officer stopped a bronze 2001 Chevy van on Riverside Road at Lawton Road after the driver had run through a stop sign at Longcommon Road and East Burlington Street.
The driver threw his hands outside the driver's side window, and as the officer approached the van on foot, the driver pulled his hands back inside and drove off at a high rate of speed eastbound on Riverside Road.
According to Weitzel, Riverside police did not pursue the vehicle as it sped away. Police followed the suspect's path of travel as reports of crashes along the suspect's route came in.
As it sped east, the van forced a westbound vehicle off the road. That vehicle ended up striking a street sign at Riverside and Olmsted roads. The driver of the westbound vehicle did not sustain any injuries.
The van then turned south on Miller Road, where it rear-ended a vehicle before turning onto westbound Ogden Avenue. The van struck a third vehicle while traveling in the westbound lanes of Ogden Avenue just west of the Des Plaines River bridge. No injuries were reported in either crash.
While continuing west in the 7800 block of Ogden Avenue, the van reportedly crossed into the eastbound lanes of traffic and struck a fourth vehicle head-on, causing the van to roll several times until it came to rest in front of the Lyons Post Office at 7836 Ogden Ave.
The suspect reportedly was unharmed in the crash, freed himself from the van and ran north into the Riverside Lawn area. The occupants of the vehicle the suspect struck reportedly suffered non-life threatening injuries and were transported to the hospital.
Police combed the Riverside Lawn area for more than two hours, according to Weitzel, searching house to house and yard to yard — particularly several vacant properties in the area and properties that had storage sheds.
A Chicago police helicopter arrived to assist in the search about a half hour after the incident occurred, said Weitzel. However, police were unable to find the suspect.
Riverside police did recover the van, which had some bloodstains on the interior. The van had temporary license plates and police learned the van was purchased just a day earlier.
They were able to obtain the name of the buyer from the Chicago dealership where it was purchased and obtained driver's license photos of the buyer. According to Weitzel, two Riverside police officers who were involved in the initial traffic stop identified the man in the driver's license photos as the man who was driving the van when they stopped it.oweve