The family of a taxi driver who was killed in a road rage incident two years ago has won about $16,000 in legal fees from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office (CCSAO) after prosecutors refused to give the victim’s survivors access to investigative documents, the Tribune reported Monday.
An Uber driver who allegedly killed Anis Tungekar with a roundhouse kick to the head fled to China while prosecutors repeatedly delayed the filing of charges.
A CCSAO spokesperson told the Tribune, “this litigation [seeking case documents] has been used as a means to disparage the [state’s attorney’s office] and garner media attention for the defendant’s civil lawsuit.”
But the documents CCSAO fought to keep under wraps do not reflect well on the office, CWBChicago has learned. Instead, the records show that a string of different prosecutors required Chicago cops to complete an ever-changing list of tasks while refusing to file charges against the suspect — even after detectives secured video of the murder. The repeated delays allowed Tungekar’s killer to escape the country and evade prosecution.
The 54-page file, provided to CWBChicago by Tungekar’s family, shows no fewer than seven different prosecutors refused to charge the suspect at different times over the span of nearly four months. Six of those refusals took place after detectives collected video footage of the slaying, records show.
According to the file, almost every refusal came from a different assistant state’s attorney, each of whom had new sets of tasks for detectives to complete before charges might be approved.
After prosecutors rejected the case for the seventh time, a Chicago police lieutenant intervened to insist that murder charges be sought. By then, though, the suspect was already out of the country and beyond the reach of law enforcement.
Tungekar, a taxi driver for 20 years, stepped out of his cab in the 100 block of North Jefferson on September 2, 2018, to exchange words with an Uber driver over a traffic dispute. Tungekar struck the other driver’s outside mirror with his hand and began walking back to his taxi.
That’s when the Uber driver, identified in court records as Fangqi Lu, walked up to Tungekar and unleashed a single kick to the 64-year-old’s head. Tungekar fell to the pavement instantly. He died two days later.
Lu tried to drive away from the scene, but a witness blocked his path so he could not escape, according to CPD records. Police arrested him at the scene.
The next day, while Lu was still in custody, detectives spoke with witnesses and found video footage of the entire incident.
“Continued for investigation”
That evening, detectives asked prosecutors to file charges against Lu for the first time. But an assistant state’s attorney refused to approve the case until detectives secured video from another building, tracked down the unknown passenger in Lu’s car, and received a search warrant for Lu’s phone, according to the case records.
The next day, with Lu still in custody, detectives collected a copy of the video that the prosecutor wanted. Late that afternoon, they tried to get charges approved.
A different prosecutor reviewed the case. She refused to file charges until police located the mystery passenger and she also wanted autopsy results.
Lu, whose time in custody without being charged was reaching the legal limit, was released 35 minutes later.
The next day, September 5, Tungekar’s death was ruled a homicide from blunt force head trauma.
Over the next two weeks, detectives worked to identify Lu’s passenger. They thought they found the woman, but it turned out to be Lu’s ex-girlfriend and not the passenger. However, Lu’s ex did identify the real passenger to police.
That day, detectives again went to prosecutors to try to get charges filed. A third assistant state’s attorney handled the review. He refused to approve their case until they interviewed the newly-identified woman. He also required them to search Lu’s cellphone.
Detectives located and interviewed the correct passenger the very next day, according to the documents. But nothing else happened in the case until October 15, when prosecutors put Lu’s passenger and the woman Lu dated in front of a grand jury.
After the grand jury session, yet another assistant state’s attorney refused to file charges in the case. He did, however, give detectives a list of four more things to do.
While detectives worked on the new tasks, they sought charges in the case based on the already-collected evidence three times: On November 29, November 30, and December 2. Their requests were denied each time.
Over the next two weeks, detectives translated Lu’s cellphone records from Chinese and completed the latest prosecutor’s to-do list. They sought murder charges again on December 17.
The prosecutor declined and instructed detectives to go find out where Lu was located, according to the records. Police confirmed the next day that Lu had fled to China.
On December 19, another prosecutor heard the case for the first time. Even though police had finished every task that every previous prosecutor gave them — including confirming Lu’s physical location — the latest prosecutor refused to approved charges. However, she did give detectives another task to complete: Physically arrest Lu, even though he is in China.
After hearing about the latest denial of charges, a CPD detective lieutenant called that prosecutor directly, and she agreed to reconsider the matter.
The next day, a reporter asked Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx about the case on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight program. Despite the fact that a member of her team was refusing to charge Lu because cops hadn’t arrested him in China, Foxx told the interviewer that prosecutors were in the process of getting “context” for the video from witnesses.
At 5:50 p.m. that night, the prosecutor who declined charges in the case back on September 19 finally approved a warrant for Lu’s arrest.
“An arrest warrant has been issued,” a detective writes in the final paragraph of the case file. “The Department of Homeland Security has verified that the offender, Fangqi Lu, has fled to Shanghai, China. There is no extradition treaty between the United States and China, because of this it precludes the arrest and prosecution of the offender.”
The detective then asks for the case be closed. Lu remains at large.