A $1.2 million settlement has been reached in a federal lawsuit filed over a high-speed police chase that ended with a crash that killed a 13-year-old northwestern Indiana girl, a family attorney said.
Attorney Lawrence T. Ruder said the settlement was reached after numerous court-ordered mediation sessions. Indiana’s damage caps law limited how much the family could recover for Julianna Chambers' death and crash injuries her grandmother suffered, he said.
The family sued the cities of East Chicago and Hammond and five of the cities’ police officers over the Feb. 15, 2017, pursuit, which began after Jessica S. Pichon, 31, of Danville, Illinois, stole a case of beer from an East Chicago supermarket, The Northwest Indiana Times reported.
Pichon's boyfriend, 32-year-old Donnell Howard Jr. of Highland, Indiana, then led police on a chase that ended when his car collided with another vehicle in Hammond, killing Chambers and seriously injuring her grandmother, Theresa Paramo.
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Howard and Pichon each pleaded guilty in late 2017 to two counts of resisting law enforcement and were later sentenced to 15 years in prison. But the state conceded neither entered into their plea agreements knowingly and voluntarily. Howard entered a new guilty plea Monday to one count of resisting law enforcement and is scheduled to be re-sentenced March 29. Pichon is scheduled to enter a new plea March 11.
As part of the settlement, Hammond and East Chicago each agreed to create and erect a bronze plaque memorializing Chambers' life, Ruder said.
He said Hammond’s former police chief issued a June 2020 order amending his department’s pursuit policy — a step he said “should improve communication between patrol officers and supervisory personnel during pursuits so that tragedies like this never happen again in our community."
Hammond corporation counsel Kevin Smith said the settlement amount was split between Hammond and East Chicago. He said the family’s civil rights claims were dropped as part of the agreement.
“We did not admit fault, but we realized it was appropriate to compensate them for their losses and the tragedy that occurred," Smith said.
East Chicago corporation counsel Carla Morgan said, “This was a tragedy, and the family has our sympathies.”