By Stuart R. Wahlin
With a statement issued by Sheriff Richard Meyers (D) late in the day Feb. 12, Winnebago County ended a tragic chapter by fulfilling its settlement agreements with the Bachman family.
In 2006, brothers Aaron and D.J. Bachman were killed when Deputy Joseph Boomer’s police cruiser T-boned the vehicle they were traveling in. The accident also left their sister, Kori, with brain damage.
The Bachmans were crossing West State Street at Weldon Road when their vehicle, driven by Kori, was struck by Boomer, who was responding to a call at high speed. He was not using a siren or flashing emergency lights at the time of the crash.
Boomer was acquitted of criminal charges in 2008, but the county was found liable in civil lawsuits filed by Bachman family members, and the county found itself on the hook to pay $17 million in settlements.
The county’s insurance for the litigation covered only $4.75 million of the total, resulting in a Feb. 11 bond sale for the remaining $13 million of the settlements and related costs.
The bond auction yielded a 3.9281 percent interest rate from Milwaukee-based Marshall & Ilsley (M&I) Bank, the lower of two bidders. According to the payment schedule, the county will pay nearly $6.5 million in interest before the bonds are paid off at the end of 2029.
When the last of the settlements had been decreed last October, Bachman attorney Daniel J. McGrail reported: “The Sheriff’s Department’s agreement to make a public statement accepting responsibility for Deputy Boomer’s actions, and more importantly, acknowledging that all of the nationally-recognized experts in the field of accident reconstruction that reviewed the facts of this collision have determined that Kori had no role in causing this collision was the key to resolving the final civil case related to this tragedy.”
A statement from Bachman family members added: “Equally important is the sheriff’s commitment to finally conduct an internal affairs investigation into all aspects of this horrific crash. We believe this next phase of pursuing justice is critical for the future public safety of other citizens and proper accountability.”
The Bachman family has also pledged to continue its push for statewide legislation that would require the use of flashing lights and sirens when law enforcement officers are responding to calls at high speed. The bill, known as Bachman’s Law, has passed the Illinois House, but stalled in the Senate.
Meyers’ statement reads: “On January 14, 2006, there was a tragic traffic crash at the intersection of Route 20 and Weldon roads in western Winnebago County between an eastbound Sheriff’s Department squad being driven by Deputy Boomer and a southbound vehicle driven by Kori Bachman. That terrible traffic crash resulted in the deaths of Aaron and D.J. Bachman and life-altering injuries to Kori Bachman.
“During the course of the civil litigation, nationally-recognized experts in the fields of accident reconstruction and human factors analysis reviewed the facts of this collision. All of the experts who have reviewed this case have determined that Kori Bachman played no role in causing this accident. The Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department accepts responsibility for Deputy Boomer’s actions.
“The County of Winnebago extends their deepest sympathy and condolences to the Bachman family for their terrible loss.”
From the Feb. 17-23, 2010 issue