Times Staff Report
MERRILLVILLE -- A motorcyclist was thrown through the air when he collided with a police car that witnesses say sped through a red light at U.S. 30 and Ind. 55 on Sunday night and didn't stop after hitting the man who died of his injuries.
The motorcyclist was identified by the Lake County coroner's office as Anthony J. Jatiela, 28, of 6671 Monroe Court, Merrillville. He was taken to The Methodist Hospitals Southlake Campus where he died at 8:08 p.m.
One witness described the scenario as two Merrillville police cars "drag racing" on U.S. 30. The officers were on their way to answer a call of shots having been fired, according to police. That call resulted in the death of one person and was classified as a suicide, according to the coroner's office.
Witnesses said the police cars, traveling side by side westbound on U.S. 30, were doing so at "an excessive, high rate of speed."
Lake County Sheriff's Police are investigating the accident. Cpl. Glen Lang said he had few details but that the Merrillville police cars were traveling with their emergency lights and siren activated.
The Merrillville police officer driving the car involved in the accident was taken to The Methodist Hospitals Southlake Campus in Merrillville. His identity and condition weren't available Sunday night.
A Merrillville man who asked not to be identified said he witnessed the accident while stopped at the red light on the eastbound side of U.S. 30. He said two Merrillville police squad cars went around the vehicles waiting at the red light in the westbound lanes of U.S. 30. He claimed the officers had their lights on but not their sirens.
"One went in the turning lane to right and one went in the turning lane to the left. They didn't slow down at all ... . When they got into the intersection there was a motorcycle going north and it ran right into the cop," the man said.
"He (the motorcyclist) flew into the air, I don't even know what happened to the motorcycle. I didn't see it after that."
Ed Kurzeija, of Lansing, also said one of the police cars went through the intersection without slowing down.
"He just hit the guy at full speed and he went airborne. He landed on his head," Kurzeija said. "I've never seen anything like it. It was like they were drag racing and then boom," he said.
"There was no reason for what happened," retired policeman Ed Fitzgerald, of Calumet City, said.
"They just didn't slow and look." Fitzgerald said answering a call of shots having been fired was no reason not to use caution.
According to the Merrillville man who was a witness, the officer that collided with the motorcyclist kept on driving then pulled over to the side of the road a ways down from the intersection. He said the other officer stopped right away.
"I was about 10 feet from where (the motorcyclist) landed. I had my 12-year-old daughter in the car, she just freaked. There was a pool of blood near his head. The cop knelt down near him and said, 'Hey man are you okay,' and the guy never responded," the man said.
"To me it was strange because they didn't have their sirens on," the Merrillville man said. "To me it was clearly his (the officer's) fault. It was a red light and they didn't have their sirens on."