KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The man accused of driving his pickup truck into a group of bicyclists, killing five of them and injuring four others will go to trial.
A judge Monday ruled there is enough evidence for case against Charles Pickett Jr. to proceed.
Pickett Jr. faces five counts of second-degree murder, four counts of reckless driving causing impairment and five counts of driving while intoxicated causing death in the June 7 crash. In August, a judge found him competent to stand trial.
Police reports say Pickett took pain pills and muscle relaxers hours before the crash on Westnedge Avenue in Cooper Township. Investigators also found marijuana and methamphetamine in his truck at the time of the crash.
The four crash survivors were in court Monday as the judge watched video showing how Pickett was acting in the ambulance after the crash.
Kalamazoo Township Police Officer Cecil Queen who took the video said Pickett was not responding and had a blank stare. Queen said before Pickett was put in an ambulance he was swaying and kept losing his balance.
“When I was first speaking with him he was standing and he would sway from side to side, from front to back, multiple times almost losing his balance. I had to grab onto him so he wouldn’t fall down on the ground,” said Queen.
“I was getting signs from him that there wasn’t something quite right with him,” testified Queen.
Queen said he took the video because he wanted people to see what he saw because it wasn’t a typical accident.
Markus Eberhard, who witnessed the crash, said he had just got done fishing when he saw a blue truck coming towards him and jumped out of the way.
“I would’ve gotten hit if I didn’t move out of the way,” said Eberhard.
He says he never saw any brake lights before the truck hit the bicyclists.
Michigan State Police Sergeant James Campbell, an expert in accident reconstruction, said there were no indications (skid marks) that the brakes were ever used before crashing into the bikers.
He estimates Pickett was driving at least 58 mph in a 35 mph speed zone.
A woman who lives near where the crash happened said she heard screeching tires and a loud bang. After running over to help, she said she saw Pickett standing by a pickup truck following the crash. She says he disappeared a few minutes later.
Pickett faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for what is considered the deadliest bike-related crash in U.S. history.