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'It Was Senseless': Man Killed by Speeding Car on His Birthday, Cops Say

By Josh McGhee | September 25, 2013 7:37am | Updated on September 25, 2013 1:36pm
 A 17-year-old boy was speeding when he hit three people and another car Thursday evening, killing a 32-year-old man, police said.
Accident in Avalon Park
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AVALON PARK — Eugene Ratcliff was on his way to celebrate his 32nd birthday when he was struck and killed by a speeding car driven by a 17-year-old Tuesday evening, his family said.

Ratcliff's family said he was a hardworking carpenter who loved his job and supporting his two kids. He would work until two or three in the morning, come home, go to sleep for a few hours and then go to work again, said his brother, Jay Thomas, 34.

Thomas said his brother was with family on his way to a gas station before coming over to his place just a few blocks away. They planned to celebrate Ratcliff's birthday.

"We were going to hang out, probably go downtown and just hang out," Thomas said.

Thomas was waiting for his brother when he got a call from his uncle telling him Ratcliff was hit by a car.

"They said they're going to see how it goes. He called me later on and said, 'He didn't make it,'" Thomas said. "I was flustered. I broke down all night. No more kicking it. No more cracking jokes. We were together every day. I can't believe it."

"It was senseless," Thomas said.

A 17-year-old was driving a 2013 Volkswagen Jetta southbound on Blackstone Avenue around 8:30 p.m. when he hit Ratcliff and two other people crossing the street before striking a Pontiac Sunfire traveling west on 83rd Street, said Officer John Mirabelli, a Chicago Police Department spokesman.

A man who lives nearby said the Jetta finally stopped when it hit his porch.

Ratcliff, of the 8200 block of South Dante Avenue, was taken to Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where he was pronounced dead at 9:41 p.m., according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office.

A 22-year-old man was taken to Jackson Park Hospital in good condition, and a 30-year-old woman was taken to South Shore Hospital in stable condition, Mirabelli said.

Both the teen, who is in police custody, and the driver of the Sunfire refused medical attention, Mirabelli said.

Cliff Muhammad said he was watching television Tuesday night when he heard three booms, each louder than the one before.

"It was kind of strange. I heard boom, boom and a loud boom, right here," said Muhammad, 75. "It appeared as though the car hit those people and the third boom was them hitting my front step."

"I looked out the window, then I called 911 and said, 'There's been a bad accident on this corner,'" Muhammad said.

Muhammad said he wasn't able to identify who was hit but could see a man laying in the street and two others laying in the grass. When he went outside, he found the car on his step but no one inside.

"The car was on, the lights were on, the engine was running, but there was no driver," Muhammad said.

He said police searched through bushes, trees and backyards. Eventually, they found the driver hiding in a neighbor's backyard.