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Cyclist 'caught between 2 gangs,' killed by van driver

The Chicago Sun-Times: Cyclist ’caught between 2 gangs,’ killed by van driver

LOGAN SQUARE | Struck, killed by 1 of 2 van drivers in street skirmish

December 17, 2009
BY CHERYL V. JACKSON AND TINA SFONDELES Staff Reporters

Jepson Livingston borrowed his brother’s bicycle to go look for a job Tuesday afternoon.

But as he pedaled on busy West Diversey not far from his Logan Square home, rival gang members in two vans went at each other -- one striking and killing Livingston. Authorities have ruled his death a homicide.

Bicyclist Jepson Livingston (inset) was killed when he was struck by one of two vas that rammed into each other. A witness took this picture of one of the vans involved in the crash.

 

Police said Livingston, 32, was struck at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday at 3827 W. Diversey, on a street that has marked bicycle lanes. He died a short time later of multiple injuries suffered in the crash.

A police source said the accident was caused by two feuding gang members. Witnesses said it appeared Livingston was struck by one of two vans that apparently rammed each other intentionally.

"He was an innocent bystander,’’ Livingston’s sister, Emily, said. "He was caught between two gangs, and he happened to get hit and killed.’’

Javier Medina, who owns an auto repair business at the site of the incident, said there were two full-sized Chevrolet vans going in opposite directions when they collided.

One van, traveling eastbound, crashed through the gate of Medina’s shop, narrowly missing two men who were repairing the gate, Medina said. The dark van stopped when it smashed into a truck parked in the lot. The other van came to a halt on the south side of Diversey. It wasn’t clear which of the vans killed Livingston, Medina said.

Surveillance video from a camera at the repair shop shows two men fleeing the dark van, leaving a woman passenger and an infant child in the vehicle. The video also shows the men returning several times to retrieve a purse and a stereo from the van before the woman and baby eventually get out.

"He doesn’t care about his baby or about his girlfriend or wife; he was more concerned about the stereo system," said Medina as he replayed the video for a reporter.

Medina said he later saw one of the men in custody, and police confirmed Wednesday they were holding a "person of interest."

Livingston worked at a car wash managed by one of his brothers, but had grown tired of working in the cold and had borrowed the bike -- on one of the coldest days of the winter so far -- to look for a better job, his family said.

One of seven children, Livingston had gone to culinary school and was an adventurous cook.

His grandfather, George Poppers, said his grandson was very even-tempered.

"I never saw him mad," he said.

Emily Livingston said she could confide in her brother without fear of her secrets being revealed.

"He wouldn’t tell anyone, not even our mother," she said.

Until Tuesday’s incident and another accident earlier this month in Jefferson Park, it had been a "relatively calm" year for fatal bicycle accidents, said Rob Sadowsky, of the Active Transportation Alliance.

"We want all users of the road to pay attention and to drive with care," Sadowsky said. "If someone makes you angry you have to understand that you’re operating a very heavy vehicle and that impact at any speed can cause a horrible accident to happen."

Turson Livingston, who had lent the bike to his brother, said he always returned it by 1 p.m., knowing that Turson needed it to get to work himself.

When the bike was not back at that time, Turson Livingston said, "I knew something bad had happened."

Contributing: Art Golab