Semi driver gets 4 years in death of Ill. firefighter

Firefighter Chris Brown was killed when he was hit by a semi driver in March 2013; he left behind a wife and two young sons

The Pantagraph

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — A Washington state man will serve four years in prison for causing the death of firefighter Chris Brown, who died when he was struck by a semitrailer truck last year on Interstate 39.

Mansur Shakirov, 29, of Spokane, was convicted of felony reckless homicide earlier this year. He was credited with 117 days already served in jail.

Brown's sister, Jennifer Radek, presented a statement to the court during Friday's sentencing hearing.

"It is very difficult for the family to come up with a reasonable sentence that we feel would justify this incident and the loss of firefighter Christopher Reed Brown. But we feel a sentence of eight years would set a precedent and send that message to the legislators, lawmakers, owners of trucking companies and, most of all, to the drivers of those semis, that when approaching situations on our highways where first responders and emergency personnel are present, that they must slow down, move over and obey the established traffic laws, or be prepared to accept the consequences."

Chris Brown's mother, Pamela Brown, told the court about the hole his absence has left in their lives.

"He was wonderful. He was cheerful, loving and helpful to everyone," she said. "That's why he took up the profession that he did. This has shattered our world since he left."

Chris Brown left a wife and two young sons.

The family declined comment after the hearing. The sentence was issued by Associate Judge Casey Costigan. Prosecutors requested a sentence of eight years, although a term of 14 years or probation also were possible.

Brown, a career firefighter with the Bloomington Fire Department, died March 5, 2013, while working as a volunteer with the Hudson Fire Department. The accident occurred along an icy stretch of Interstate 39 north of Normal as Hudson firefighters were at the scene of a separate accident.

In March, a jury convicted Shakirov guilty of felony reckless homicide for failing to reduce his speed and move over to the right lane to avoid hitting a Hudson command vehicle, Brown and others at the scene.

Speaking before he was sentenced, Shakirov expressed remorse, saying "I deeply regret what happened. My heart goes out to everyone in that family."

That night, as he was driving a semitrailer south on I-39, he moved from the right lane to the left lane. "When I realized the emergency vehicles were on the left I tried to stop the vehicle, but didn't and lost control," he said. "Accidents do happen."

Shakirov's younger brother, two cousins and several friends asked the judge to let him go home. They described him as a caring, hard-working person who never hurt anyone, was never in trouble with the law and was successful in school. 

Bakhtiyer Shakirov said he and his siblings grew up very poor and that after the family moved from Uzbekistan to Krasnodar, Russia, Mansur Shakirov started working at age 11 or 12 on farms to buy clothes, books for school and to support his family.

"We were refugees in Russia. We had to leave," Bakhtiyer Shakirov said. After the family relocated to Washington state with the help of a world relief organization when Mansur was 21, he worked during the day, attended an ESL school at night to learn English, eventually got his GED and graduated with an associates degree from a community college.

"He was the first generation to go to college in my family," said Bakhtiyer Shakirov.  

Costigan said while Mansur Shakirov did not contemplate doing serious harm or intend for an accident to happen, his actions not only threatened, but caused serious harm to people and that his responsibility was to obey all traffic laws.

He said with the extensive news coverage the case has received, he hopes the public will think carefully about the safety of firefighters, police officers and other emergency personnel at accident scenes and act responsibly to prevent a similar tragedy.

"The court realizes there are no winners today," Costigan said.

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