Under a bright red awning, neon lights glowed from the windows of Tony’s Philly Steak onto a dark street on the South Side of Chicago. It was early Sunday morning, and the cramped carryout restaurant was quiet after being flooded earlier by a mob of ravenous customers craving greasy late-night meals.
The air was still heavy with the smell of french fries and sizzling meat as 35-year-old Marquita Reed and her friend sat down to wait for their food, a pit stop during their weekend night out, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Then, the building’s wall exploded, sending glass and chunks of brick hurtling into the restaurant.
“It looked like an earthquake,” Tawfik Damra, the establishment’s owner, told the Chicago Sun-Times.
But the damage wasn’t caused by an act of nature.
When the dust settled, Reed, a nurse and mother of two, was pinned under a car that had plowed into the side of the restaurant. The driver, authorities later learned, was one of their own — an off-duty Chicago police officer who was allegedly legally drunk.
Reed was killed and her friend injured after 24-year-old Terrance Finley barreled through one of the restaurant’s windows. Finley, who has been an officer for three years, was charged early Tuesday with one felony count of reckless homicide with a motor vehicle, one felony count of aggravated DUI/accidental death, one misdemeanor count of driving under the influence and a citation for failure to reduce speed, WLS reported. He is scheduled to appear in bond court on Tuesday.
Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson said the officer’s blood alcohol content at the time of the incident was 0.083, just above the legal limit of 0.08, according to WLS.
“This officer will be treated just like anybody else,” Johnson told reporters at a news conference on Monday.
Johnson later added: “I expect my officers to adhere to a higher standard, I really do. When they don’t, then they will be held accountable for it.”
There were six people — Reed and her friend, another customer and three employees — still in the restaurant when the black Toyota sedan went flying through the wall, the Sun-Times reported. The incident happened around 2:45 a.m., according to the Tribune.
Reed was trapped beneath the car, and despite being freed by first responders, she was pronounced dead after being taken to a nearby hospital, the Tribune reported.
Finley, who remained at the scene, told first responders that he was forced to swerve to avoid a vehicle that had cut him off, causing his car to jump the curb, WLS reported. He sustained a neck injury and is expected to recover, according to the news station.
Footage of the aftermath showed the area around the restaurant roped off with yellow police tape, keeping a group of onlookers at bay. The back of the black sedan jutted out from a gaping hole in the brick wall.
During Monday’s news conference, Johnson scoffed at suggestions of Finley receiving special treatment. “I don’t want to get out in front of where we are yet, but I can assure you there’s no game playing, no trying to hide anything,” Johnson said.
Meanwhile, Reed’s family members are still coming to terms with the sudden loss.
“We’re just trying to put Marquita to rest right now, and that’s a toll by itself,” Marjorie Bowman, Reed’s aunt, told The Washington Post on Monday. “We’re still processing everything. Just trying to get through one day at the time.”
Reed, the mother of an 11-year-old and a 13-year-old, was a licensed practical nurse and had plans to go back to school to become a registered nurse, Bowman said.
“She was adored by many,” Bowman said. “This is just a great loss to our family.”
In an interview with Chicago’s NBC affiliate, Angela Reed described her daughter as “the sweetest person that you would ever want to meet.”
“She loved everybody, no matter how they treated her,” she said. “She made everybody love her.”