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HOMETOWN, Ill. (CBS) — A 34-year veteran of the Hometown Police Department took a final ride with his colleagues on Monday.
Lt. James Kouski, 58, was killed early Saturday morning when prosecutors said a drunken driver crashed into him near 90th Street and Pulaski Road in the southwest suburb.
CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey spoke exclusively with Kouski’s grieving partners. Meanwhile, Otis Pruitt – the man charged Kouski’s death – is being held on $1 million bond.
Pruitt did not attend his bong hearing because he is hospitalized for injuries he suffered in the crash.
Prosecutors said his blood alcohol content was nearly twice the legal limit, and he has a criminal history to consider.
Chicago Police and other suburban police departments joined a procession Saturday as Kouski’s body was transported from Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office on the Near West Side. On Monday morning, Kouski’s body was escorted from the Medical Examiner’s office to a funeral home.
“We did it not only for Jim and his honor, but to start the grieving process for our officers,” said Hometown police Chief Louis Dominguez Jr.
Hometown police officers Timothy Casey and Kyle Wedel worked overnights with Lt. Kouski for years. Casey had last seen Kouski the day before the crash that took his life, while Wedel had last worked with him Thursday night.
On Monday morning, Casey and Wedel helped escort Kouski’s body to the funeral home.
The talkative and friendly supervisor on the midnight shift was covering an accident investigation when police say an intoxicated Pruitt slammed his car into Lt. Kouski’s squad car. Kouski was standing next to it and thrown at least 40 feet.
“It was very difficult to hear the details,” Chief Dominguez said. “I actually heard more details during the bond hearing than I knew.”
The 34-year veteran of the department died at a local hospital, and police say Pruitt fled – but was soon captured by Oak Lawn police.
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Kouski was wearing his emergency vest, and had his emergency lights were activated per police protocol.
Hickey: “You could see the lights from a mile away according to witnesses.”
Dominguez: “That’s correct. There’s nothing he could have done differently.”
“He always did everything right,” added Officer Wedel. “He was a good leader.”
Kouski’s partners said he leaves behind an adult son and a wife who have asked for their privacy during this time.
But the procession Monday morning, and seeing charges approved, are helping members of the Hometown police force start the grieving process.
“It’s definitely going to be weird not having him here,” Casey said.
“Thank you, Hometown,” Wedel said. “Thank you very much.”
Pruitt, 27, was charged with aggravated DUI resulting in the death, as well as a reckless homicide – and a felony Scott’s Law violation for failing to move over for an emergency responder. His next court date is Friday.
We did not find any record of a DUI in Pruitt’s criminal background, but prosecutors said he was sentenced three years in prison selling a gun to a minor in 2013 – and that case resulted in someone being killed.
Pruitt was held on $1 million bond Monday.
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