A special prosecutor has been appointed to the case involving a suburban police officer who was charged with driving under the influence in connection with a crash that killed an officer from another suburban police department.
Erin Zilka, 35, was charged with misdemeanor DUI in connection with a crash on on Interstate 55 at U.S. Route 30 near Plainfield early Sunday that killed an officer from another suburban police department.
Zilka was driving a Dodge Durango in which 33-year-old Charles Schauer, of Glen Ellyn, was a passenger, according to police, who said the vehicle was headed southbound when it crashed into a box truck.
Police said the box truck was involved in an earlier crash with a pickup truck near the scene, and came to rest in the right two lanes of traffic. A short time after the initial crash, the Dodge Durango then crashed into the back of the truck. The driver of the truck that caused the initial crash also faces charges of aggravated driving under the influence.
Schauer, a police officer in suburban Berwyn, was pronounced dead at the scene. Zilka was taken to an area hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, according to police.
Zilka's attorney said she and Schauer were "hanging out" before the crash and argued a blood test after the accident showed she was below the legal limit. They also claim witnesses say Zilka also had no time to safely avoid the crash.
“My client is physically fine from the accident, however emotionally she’s not," said defense attorney Patricia Kalkanis said in court. "This was a horrific, horrific accident where an honorable officer was lost. She’s coping with it and doing her best.”
In a statement, the Berwyn Police Department said that Schauer was a 10-year veteran of the force, and described him as a “well-respected” member of the department.
“It is with great sadness that I share that we lost a member of the Berwyn Police Department,” Mayor Robert J. Lovero said. “Please keep Officer Schauer’s family and friends, as well as all Berwyn police officers, in your thoughts and prayers during this time of grief.”
A visitation is scheduled for Schauer Friday afternoon and evening in River Forest. A funeral will be held on Saturday, authorities announced.
An investigation by the Illinois State Police remains ongoing. Zilka is next expected to appear in court March 18.