Chicago cop charged with killing pedestrian in off-duty crash outside Marina City

Tangie Brown (left) and Maria “Tonie” Schwab. (Chicago Police Department, Google, Porter Loring)

CHICAGO — An off-duty Chicago police officer was under the influence when she crashed into two pedestrians, killing one, near Marina City last month, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Tangie Brown, 40, was relieved of police powers on December 7, hours after the crash killed 56-year-old Maria “Tonie” Schwab in the 300 block of North State, according to CPD.

Brown and other CPD employees were attending a “non-sponsored holiday retirement party” at Treehouse, 149 West Kinzie, according to a written proffer provided by the Cook County state’s attorney’s office. She left the party shortly after midnight and headed to her car.

At the same time, Schwab was on an after-dinner walk with a group of co-workers, all visiting from out of town.

The group was right outside the Marina City driveway when Brown, driving south on State Street, dropped her phone while trying to use its GPS, prosecutors said. She bent down to get the phone.

When Brown looked back up, she was heading toward a median. She overcorrected, swerved onto the sidewalk, hit a planter, and struck the leg of a 37-year-old woman in Schwab’s group as the woman dove out of the way, according to the proffer.

Brown’s car then struck Schwab, pinning her against a railing that runs along the sidewalk with a patio below. Prosecutors said Brown reversed, causing Schwab to fall several feet to the patio.

A blood test taken about two hours after the crash showed Brown’s blood alcohol concentration was .093, above the .08 limit. After turning herself in on Monday, Brown admitted to having three drinks at the party and confirmed that she struck Schwab after losing control of her car while trying to retrieve her phone, the proffer said.

She is charged with aggravated DUI causing death and aggravated use of a communication device while driving causing death, both of which are felonies. She’s also facing misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and failure to give information or render aid.

Judge Kelly McCarthy released her from custody after an initial appearance on Tuesday.

The Sun-Times reported in December that Fred Melean, a high-ranking Chicago police officer, retired after learning he would be demoted for his alleged mishandling of the crash.

As the ranking officer that night, he was responsible for overseeing the department’s handling of the crash since it involved an off-duty cop. But, the paper reported, Melean never even showed up at the scene.

Delayed charging is not unusual

While it may seem odd that criminal charges weren’t filed against Brown for several weeks, such delays are common in traffic-related cases.

In one recent example, prosecutors this month charged a 33-year-old woman with two counts of aggravated DUI causing bodily harm for a crash that occurred on November 19. The charges were delayed even though, driving with a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit, she allegedly collided head-on with a marked CPD squad car that had an active dash cam.

The officer driving the squad car suffered life-threatening injuries, including a fractured pelvis, a broken hip, and a fractured leg, prosecutors said. She also left her 12-year-old son alone in the car while she drank at a bar before getting behind the wheel and driving away, according to prosecutors. The boy suffered a broken wrist and ankle in the crash.

Last week, prosecutors filed reckless homicide charges against a 39-year-old man who allegedly killed the passenger of another car in a crash at 54th and Western on October 27. The charges were delayed even though police arrested him at the scene, and the victim succumbed to her injuries while he was still in custody.

About Tim Hecke 329 Articles
Tim Hecke is CWBChicago's managing partner. He started his career at KMOX, the legendary news radio station in St. Louis. From there, he moved on to work at stations in Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York City. Tim went on to build syndicated radio news and content services that served every one of America's 100 largest radio markets. He became CWBChicago's managing partner in 2019. His email address is tim@cwbchicago.com