By Thomas Vogel
A carjacking in the parking lot of an Oak Park grocery store on Roosevelt Road on May 7 resulted in the death of a Westchester man, 24-year-old Christopher Daniel Florez, according to Oak Park police.
Police are still investigating the incident and are holding a "person of interest" for questioning.
Florez, police said, left a car running as a he, a friend and her daughter stood a few feet away at a DVD rental kiosk outside Jewel, 7036 Roosevelt Road, around 6:40 p.m.
A man, described by witnesses as black male, about 30 to 40 years old with a thin build, short braids and wearing a dark sweater, reportedly got into the car.
Florez then ran to the car and reached inside the driver-side window, but the man drove off "at a high rate of speed," police said.
Still hanging onto the car as it traveled northbound on Harlem Avenue, Florez eventually was thrown from the moving vehicle. The Cook County medical Examiner's Office confirmed on May 8 that Florez died from injuries suffered by being dragged by a moving car.
Dustin Murguia, who lives in the 1100 block of Harlem Avenue in Forest Park, was unpacking from a weekend trip about 7 p.m. on May 7 when he heard the screeching of car tires outside his home.
"I heard a commotion. I heard some people outside. I live right on Harlem," Murguia said. "I open the window and I can see a body, close to the median of Harlem [Avenue]."
Murguia said he went outside and walked 10 or 15 yards north, just as police and paramedics were arriving.
He said the victim, later identified as Florez, was taken away by paramedics after about 5-7 minutes.
Police blocked off Harlem Avenue from Roosevelt Road to Harrison Street for about an hour, Murguia said.
"It was getting dark before we heard traffic outside our house again," he said.
Florez was taken to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood and pronounced dead later Sunday evening.
Police reported recovering the vehicle, a 2016 Dodge Charger, and detaining a person for questioning.
Oak Park police did not return a call requesting further comment.
Forest Park police responded to the Oak Park incident, Chief Thomas Aftanas said May 8, and provided traffic control and first aid to Florez, who ended up on the western side of Harlem Avenue, technically Forest Park's jurisdiction, Aftanas said.
There have been six motor thefts in Forest Park in which residents left cars running with the keys inside since Jan. 1, according to Deputy Police Chief Michael Keating.
There have been a total of 11 car thefts in 2017, according to Aftanas. In 2016, there were 32 car thefts. In 2015, there were 25 car thefts.
The Oak Park incident is unique in that Florez reached into the vehicle in an attempt to stop the theft.
It is important to remember, Aftanas said May 8, that car "thefts" are not "carjackings." Carjackings involve forcibly removing a victim from a car, possibly with a weapon.
The six incidents since January do not represent a trend, in Aftanas' opinion.
These types of incidents are not uncommon, especially in wintertime, when drivers sometime leave cars unattended and running for convenience.
"People go out, warm their cars up and go back in the house," Aftanas said. "%u200B...%u200B That's a normal occurrence ... It does happen quite a bit."
%u200BHe also mentioned residents running into convenience stores to pay for gas or filling up their tires with air as possible situations leading to this particular kind of car theft.
%u200BAftanas suggested remote-start devices, which cost several hundred dollars, as one possible deterrent. %u200BThe low-tech method is for residents to their change behavior.
"Even if it seems inconvenient, shut it off and lock the doors ... especially if you have kids in the car," Aftanas said. "That will definitely deter someone from taking it."
Anyone who may have information regarding the incident is urged to contact Oak Park police at 708-386-3800 or to leave anonymous tips at 708-434-1636 or at www.oak-park.us/crimetip.