Sunday, December 23, 2018

While prosecutors seek "context" homicide suspect escapes to China, victim's son says

Images from a surveillance video show the homicide of Anis Tungekar. | Omar Tungekar
Family members of a taxi driver who was killed when another motorist apparently kicked him in the head during a West Loop road rage incident in September say the killer has fled to China as Cook County prosecutors steadfastly refuse to bring charges while forcing Chicago cops to jump through a seemingly endless line of hoops.

“We went to the media last month to hold the Cook County State's Attorney [CCSAO] accountable for releasing the offender without charges,” the victim’s son told CWBChicago in an email this week. “Unfortunately the media took CPD to task instead. I'm hoping you might be able to help set the record straight.”

Anis Tungekar, 64, was a veteran cab driver of 20 years when he stepped out of his taxi in the 100 block of North Jefferson on Sept. 2nd to speak with an Uber driver who was behind him. A surveillance camera atop a nearby high-rise captured images of what happened next:

Video not loading? Click HERE.

The 30-year-old Uber driver emerges from his car and walks to the Uber driver's window where police say he engaged in "trash talk." Tungekar walks to the passenger side of the Uber vehicle, strikes the rearview mirror, and then begins walking back to his taxi. The Uber driver is then seen unleashing a single kick from the side that knocks the cabbie to the pavement. Tungekar would die two days later at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Police took the Uber driver into custody the same day, but the Cook County State’s Attorney refused to press charges within 48 hours and the man had to be released. Prosecutors gave cops a list of additional information that they wanted before the state would move to prosecute the homicide.

Anis Tungekar | Provided
“The night my father died, the State’s Attorney declined to charge his killer and ordered him released," Omar said. "Three months later, we’re still waiting for the State’s Attorney to acknowledge that it’s a crime to kick someone to death in the city of Chicago.”

Last month, Tungekar’s family members held a press conference and released the surveillance video in an effort to draw out more witnesses and other information that prosecutors were requiring.

"Each time CPD satisfied the [State’s Attorney's] request and re-presented their case, felony review rejected charges and introduced new evidentiary hurdles,” Omar Tungekar said. The police request for charges was most recently rejected on Monday, he said.

In an email on Thursday, Tungekar told us, “last night I learned that because the CCSAO failed to approve charges for over 3 months, the offender has now fled the country.” The man, Omar said, is now in China.

But felony charges aren’t the only thing prosecutors refused to file on Monday, Omar said. The office also refused a police request to file for a warrant to make it easier to apprehend the suspect should he arrive at a U.S. port of entry.

“[They] told CPD they would revisit charges only if CPD brings the offender back into custody. But by refusing the warrant, they have made that very unlikely,” Omar said. “When I spoke to felony review in September, they knew the offender was a flight risk, but they did nothing to detain him. Now 3 months later, not only are they refusing to approve charges in absentia, they've made it almost impossible for the police to apprehend the fugitive.”

But when a senior police executive heard about prosecutors’ failure to take action this week, the cop took matters into his own hands and successfully obtained an arrest warrant for the suspect, Omar said.

“I knew [a warrant would be issued] if the case were presented to a judge or the grand jury,” he said. Prosecutors “have still not approved charges, and the fact remains that they nearly derailed the investigation by demanding CPD find a way to bring the fugitive back into custody without a warrant before felony review would consider charges. “

During a Friday appearance on Chicago Tonight, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said the case of Anis Tungekar’s homicide is an on-going investigation in which she was seeking witnesses who could “add context” to Tungekar’s death.

“CCSAO is not awaiting any additional witnesses or information,” Omar said this weekend. “CPD provided all the evidence requested by CCSAO and they still denied CPD's arrest warrant and told CPD they would defer on charges until CPD finds a way to bring the fugitive back into custody. We're fortunate a judge disagreed with felony review and found that there is probable cause to approve the arrest warrant.”

During her TV appearance on Friday, Foxx also said, “I don't think people can trust what you're doing unless you show them what you're doing.” Yet throughout the day on Friday her office failed to respond to multiple requests for comment about the Tungekar case.

A Chicago police spokesperson said in an email that “all charging information would be handled by [Foxx’s] office.”
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