An apparent error in the National Driver Registry led to the issuance of an Indiana driver's license to a 26-year-old Hammond man who allegedly struck and killed a Chicago firefighter Saturday.

Carlando J. Hurt was charged with reckless homicide and remains in the Cook County Jail on $400,000 bond, after he tried to cut through traffic on the Bishop Ford Freeway, driving over road flares in an attempt to pass a semitrailer.

As he passed the semi, Hurt skidded into a firetruck, police said, striking Lt. Scott Gillen, who was with three emergency vehicles that responded to a minor accident in the southbound lane just north of 115th Street. Gillen died early Saturday morning from injuries sustained in the accident.

As Gillen, a 37-year-old father of five, was laid to rest Wednesday, others were left to question how a man who had his driving privileges suspended four times and ultimately revoked in Illinois, could obtain a valid license in Indiana.

Kelly Duncan, a public information representative with the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, said an error in a national database used to check on drivers' backgrounds led to Hurt receiving an Indiana license. She

said states that have a reciprocity agreement with the registry share their driver information in a database.

"We use the National Driver Registry to check on the background of drivers who apply for a license," Duncan said. "The Problem Driver Point System is used to check if a driver has had their driving privileges suspended or revoked in another state."

On Wednesday, Duncan's department ran a National Driver Registry check on Hurt, which showed he was eligible to receive a license. She said his Illinois suspensions and revocation never showed up.

David Druker, a representative of the Illinois secretary of state's office, was surprised at Indiana's findings and said he wasn't sure how Hurt's 20 driving convictions could have been missed.

Druker said Hurt never obtained an Illinois driver's license. He said Hurt received a learner's permit in 1990, but it expired. He said the state had no idea that Hurt was driving because from 1990 through 1994 he had no violations, but that all changed in the past 18 months.

"The traffic violations that (Hurt) has had in the past are fairly minor, nothing like this weekend's incident," Druker said. "He had no prior DUIs, but had been caught disregarding a light or exceeding the speed limit."

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Druker said Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White introduced a bill last fall to change Illinois statues for people who drive while suspended.

"Right now, driving while being suspended is not a jailable offense in Illinois, unless it involves a DUI," Druker said. "The proposal, which goes before the General Assembly in the spring session would change that."

Druker said White's program would call for those caught driving while suspended to spend seven days in jail on their first offense. The second offense would be punishable by 10 days in jail and the third offense would carry a one-year jail term.

Duncan said Hurt received a learner's permit May 12 and received his license June 23. She said his driving record is clean, but other records show he has at least one violation.

On Nov. 22, Hurt was stopped by Hammond police who issued him a citation for failure to wear a seat belt. Because Hurt produced a valid Indiana license, police did not check his driving status in Illinois, a Hammond police spokesman said.

Hurt's Illinois driving history shows that traffic stops have led to his arrest on other charges in the past.

In June 1997, Lansing police charged Hurt with disobeying a railroad signal, unlawful use of a weapon and driving on a suspended license after they witnessed him disobeying a railroad signal. Police found nine empty shell casings and a .38-caliber handgun in Hurt's 1996 Ford Explorer.

In May 1999, Lansing police charged Hurt with driving without a license and not having insurance after they stopped his 1988 Honda Coupe following a fight Hurt was allegedly involved in outside of Kilroy's, 3602 Ridge Road.

Hurt's next court appearance is scheduled for Jan 12.

Bradley Cole can be reached at bradcole@howpubs.com or (219) 933-3372.

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