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November 23, 2007
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Off-duty Chicago officer relieved of duty after fatal crash

By Dan P. Blake
Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO —  An off-duty Chicago officer accused of driving drunk and causing a fatal accident has been relieved of his police powers while the crash is investigated, police said today.

Officer John Ardelean, 33, has been accused of driving drunk when his SUV broadsided a sedan on a North Side street early Thursday, killing two Cicero men and injuring a third, police said.

He was charged with driving under the influence and cited with failure to reduce speed in the crash, which occurred about 2:50 a.m. in the 2900 block of North Damen Avenue, a police spokeswoman said. (Police provided incorrect citation information Thursday.)

Erick Lagunas, 21, and Miguel Flores, 22, were in a 2006 Pontiac Grand Am that was broadsided by Ardelean's northbound Dodge Durango as the Grand Am turned onto Damen from West Oakdale Avenue.

A third passenger in the Grand Am -- Reynaldo Barajas, 21, also of Cicero -- was seriously injured in the crash and taken to Stroger Hospital.

Lagunas, of the 2800 block of South 48th Court, was driving the sedan and was ejected. He was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, said a Cook County medical examiner's office spokesman.

Flores, of the 3400 block of South 61st Court, was taken to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 4:07 a.m., the spokesman said.

Ardelean -- a five-year veteran of the department assigned to the Belmont District, where the crash happened -- declined medical attention after the crash. He also refused to take blood-alcohol tests, said police spokesman Pat Camden.

"He refused the test. You have the right to refuse the test," Camden said. "[Evidence] can be based on your appearance, based on the officers on the scene, based on a number of different factors."

"This is an ongoing investigation. Charges very well could be increased at some point during the investigation," Camden said.

A spokeswoman for the Cook County state's attorney's office said charges had not been upgraded as of Friday afternoon.

Camden said Ardelean will reassigned to "less-sensitive" duties pending outcome of the investigation.

It was the second time this week that a Chicago police officer was charged with driving drunk in a fatal crash.

On Monday, Eugene Bikulcius, 45, was charged with misdemeanor DUI, accused of having a blood-alcohol content three times the legal limit during a crash in June in which a passenger on his motorcycle was killed.

Bikulcius was off-duty during the June 10 crash in the 4300 block of West 87th Street when a vehicle made a left turn in front of his motorcycle, a police spokeswoman said. Denise Gerzen, who was riding on the back of Bikulcius' motorcycle, was killed.

The driver of the vehicle was charged with misdemeanor DUI shortly after the accident, but Bikulcius was not charged until Monday, after the Cook County state's attorney's office learned the results of the officer's blood-alcohol test.

"We made the call to charge him [with a misdemeanor instead of a felony,]" office spokesman John Gorman said. "He was charged based on the evidence."

Neither Gorman nor police could say exactly when the blood-alcohol test on Bikulcius was administered, and it is not clear why it took five months to get the test results.

A police spokeswoman said Bikulcius, who is on medical leave, probably will be removed from the street but not fired.

Copyright 2007 The Chicago Tribune

Full story: Off-duty Chicago officer relieved of duty after fatal crash

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