Student killed in wrong-way crash

Asuncion Torres’ last words to her son were “Be careful.” But it was the alleged carelessness of another that caused her son’s death.

Fabian Torres, a DePaul University student, and his friend Joaquin Garcia were killed in a car accident on Lake Shore Drive March 15, after an off-duty North Chicago police officer allegedly drove on the wrong side of the road while intoxicated.

Torres, 27, was a first-year DePaul student. Joaquin Garcia, 25, was set to graduate from Malcolm X College in May and aspired to be a surgical technician. Both were traveling southbound on Lake Shore Drive in a black Jeep at around 4 a.m. when Terrell Garrett, 35, collided head-on with his Chevy Trailblazer.

According to Huffington Post Chicago, a judge set Garrett’s bail at $500,000 at a hearing March 18. Garrett allegedly had a blood alcohol content of 0.184 – more than double the legal limit – according to prosecutors at the hearing. Garrett celebrated his birthday on the same day as the accident. Garrett is charged with two felony counts of reckless homicide and two felony counts of aggravated driving under the influence.

In a statement released Friday, the North Chicago Police Department said they “immediately relieved Officer Terrell Garrett of his police powers and has placed him on administrative leave pending the outcome of the Chicago Police Department’s investigation.”

Cecilia Garcia, Joaquin Garcia’s mother, told WGN-TV that she was heartbroken about the accident. “I don’t know how to feel about… that this man comes out with a bail bond and gets to walk home,” said Garcia. “Our kids never will come home to us, never.”

Garrett was recovering from injuries and was in serious condition at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center at the time of the hearing, according to Huffington Post Chicago. In the days following the accident, some protestors held signs outside of the hospital intended for Garrett, including one that read “Happy Birthday Killer!”

The Torres and Garcia families also held a vigil March 18, and marched from 26th and Pulaski streets to the Cook County Criminal County Administration buildings protesting Garrett’s bond. Garrett was released from the hospital March 25, and needed to post 10 percent of the bail – $50,000 – to return home under electronic monitoring. Garrett’s first hearing occurred on April 5, and his next will be April 12.  

Asuncionsaid her son was a foodie and “fashionista” who studied education at DePaul. “He always told me he wanted to be a teacher,” said Asuncion. “Going to a neighborhood where we were from, our schools weren’t up to par. He wanted so bad to be a teacher.”

When Asuncion last saw her son, he was at home at 9:30 p.m., doing laundry.

“I thought he was going to stay home,” said Asuncion. “The last thing he said to me was ‘I’m going out.'”

Raoul Vera, Torres’ uncle, described Torres as a young man who was not afraid to talk about life. “I’m gonna miss his smile,” said Vera. “He had a smile, and I think that’s what attracted people to him. He was a lucky, gold person who cared for you.”

Asuncionsaid there should be a higher standard for police officers.

“Why is it the reverse?” asked Asuncion. “He’s gonna get a slap on the wrist and walk home when he killed two people.”

Asuncionsaid that while any sentencing for Garrett would be “inequitable,” it should “be whatever the regular punishment would be, times three” because he is a police officer.  

“That’s the indignity to this case,” said Asuncion. “It’s insulting that he gets to walk home (on bail). My son will never get to go home.”