Emergency personnel responding to a May crash which killed a 5-year-old boy could immediately tell that the driver of the mangled Chevy Cavalier was drunk, recordings of police dispatch conversations reveal.
"My driver's intoxicated. I've got a vehicle about 20 feet into the yard with a 5-year-old in the backseat," a Steger police officer who responded to the crash is recorded saying. "This guy's going to have to, uh, get a DUI and we need his blood because I can smell the alcohol."
Steger officer: "Now we found out that the Heights had this car pulled over a half hour before our accident..."
Dispatcher: "Oh yeah. I know. We already know that."
Steger officer: "Yeah, well Pete talked to the officer and the officer said, 'Oh, I didn't detect any alcohol.'..
Steger officer: "And right now if his (Conner's) limit is... He's going to be at least twice if not triple the limit."
Dispatcher: "Oh, I'm sure."
Steger officer: "He's in a room with a neck brace on. His face is all black and blue. You can just smell how strong the alcohol is there."
"Oh, this is going to get ugly," the Steger officer later predicts in the recording.
Conner was given the keys to the car about a half hour before the crash by Chicago Heights officers who had pulled over the young boy's mother and arrested her, claiming she was driving on a suspended license. The crash instantly killed 5-year-old Michael Langford, who was strapped in his safety seat.
Police reports indicate that Conner's blood alcohol concentration was .208, more than twice the legal limit.
The officer involved in the initial traffic stop has been on the force for two years and was shaken after learning about the accident. Audio between that officer and Chicago Heights dispatch center, released last month, appears to show him changing his story when he learns of the fatal crash.
Chicago Heights Police Chief Michael Camilli said the young officer had Conner walk and talk and deemed him sober, but the boy's mother, Kathie LaFond, is adamant she told police officers that Conner was drunk.
"I think [these recordings] once again goes to our allegations that the Chicago Heights Police Department failed to detect the severity of Mr. Conner's alcohol level and subsequently allowed him to leave with the minor child in the back, and that’s the basis of our lawsuit," said attorney Mark Horwitz, who is representing LaFond in her lawsuit against the Chicago Heights Police Department and Conner.
Conner has been charged with reckless homicide.