Robert Vais

A well respected and well liked Riverside man has been charged with aggravated drunk driving for allegedly running into a Chicago man riding a bicycle and killing him late Friday night in Chicago. 

Robert Vais, 54, has been charged with aggravated DUI and cited for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident after the Ford van he was driving struck Hector Avalos at about midnight Friday night in the 2500 block of Ogden Ave. Avalos, 28, a former Marine was riding his bicycle home from work after a shift as a cook at the El Hefe Super Macho Taqueria according to a report in the Chicago Tribune.

Vais, a longtime resident of Riverside, has worked for Cook County since 1982 and is currently the director of purchasing at John J. Stroger Hospital. 

Vais stayed at the scene after allegedly running into Avalos near a viaduct. 

“When officers arrived on the scene the defendant stated to officers that he was driving a van and that he hit the victim,” said Tandra Simonton, a spokesperson for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Simonton said police officers observed Vais to have bloodshot eyes and the smell of alcohol on his breath.

Vais agreed to take a Breathalyzer test and had a blood alcohol level of 0.118, which is higher than the 0.08 legal limit.

Vais appeared in bond court on Sunday and Judge James Brown set his bond at $400,000. Vais posted bond and was released. 

Calls to Vais home and to his lawyer requesting comment were not immediately returned.

Vais coached youth basketball in Riverside and is admired by those who know him.

“He’s a wonderful man and he and his family have given a lot to our community,” said Kathie Kunish whose son was coached by Vais. “I feel for him and his family and I feel for the victim.”

Vais is the president of the Morton College Athletic Association. The gymnasium at Morton College is named after Vais’s father, Henry J. Vais, who was a long time athletic director at Morton College.

Vais had a small ownership interest in Michael Anthony’s, a family owned pizza restaurant and sports bar on Ogden Ave. in Berwyn, where he worked as a manager on Sundays. 

Simonton said that Vais had a clean criminal record except for receiving six months probation for a misdemeanor assault charge in St. Louis in 1989. 

Vais’s next court date is set for Dec. 27 at noon at the George N. Leighton Criminal Court Building at 26th and California.

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