Photo credit: Hudson Firefighter Chris Brown
March 15--BLOOMINGTON -- A McLean County jury returned a verdict of reckless homicide Friday against the driver of a semitrailer truck that killed Hudson firefighter Chris Brown.
After an emotional, week-long trial, the jury deliberated eight hours on the charges against Mansur Shakirov, 29, of Spokane, Wash. He will be jailed until an April 24 sentencing hearing, when he faces a possible term of 14 years.
The verdict brought emotions from relatives, friends and Hudson firefighters, who hugged assistant state's attorneys John Shim and Joshua Rinker.
"I feel justice has been served but I am still hurting too much," said Brown's tearful mother, Pam.
The trial was attended at some times by more than 40 Brown supporters. Brown, the father of two, was a volunteer with the Hudson department and was a career firefighter for the City of Bloomington. His father works for Normal Police Department.
In a statement, the Hudson Fire Department thanked prosecutors for their work on the case.
"We hope that today's outcome brings more exposure to the dangers that emergency responders face every day on the road. While no decisions made in this case will ever take away the pain for the loss of our brother, our obligation now is to continue to honor Firefighter Chris Brown's memory by continuing the call to duty, and to stay vigilant to the dangers that exist when we respond."
The jury rejected a defense effort to limit the criminal charge to reckless driving. The more serious charge accused Shakirov of failing to reduce his speed and move over to the right lane to avoid hitting a Hudson command vehicle and Brown, who was standing near it.
Brown and others were responding to an accident on an icy, snow-blown stretch of Interstate 39 when the second accident occurred.
Shim said the jury accepted the state's view that the driver's actions were not those of a reasonable person.
"A reasonable person would have slowed down, moved over and used caution," said Shim.
Rinker said, "I hope this sends a message to all drivers to make sure we protect our first responders."
State's Attorney Jason Chambers acknowledged that the case held a great deal of emotion for those in the courtroom, who listened to graphic and painful details of the injuries and circumstances that led to Brown's death.
"The dispute in the case was the issue of whether the actions were reckless," said Chambers.
Evidence showed that Shakirov was traveling at least 37 miles an hour when his 74,000-pound truck slammed into the first emergency vehicle, setting off a chain reaction that also damaged a state police squad car and a fire engine.
Prosecutors successfully argued that activity log books collected from the truck were relevant to the issue of reckless conduct. A state police review of the books showed that Shakirov violated federal rules that require minimum breaks from driving.
The driver was in compliance with the rules on the day of the accident, so he was not cited for the previous violation.
Defense lawyer Chris Gramm commented that "we asked the jury to think about the evidence and they did." He also thanked jurors along with the Brown family and Hudson firefighters for their service.
Associate Judge Casey Costigan presided over the trial.
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