Teen charged in deadly MSP chase going to trial

Alex Torrez appears in Kentwood District Court on May 19, 2017 for a preliminary hearing tied to the March 11 police chase and deadly crash.

KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) — A teen accused of leading Michigan State Police on a chase that ended in a deadly crash in Kentwood is heading to trial.

On Friday, Kent County judge William Kelly bound over 17-year-old Alex Torrez to circuit court on two counts of second-degree murder in the March 11 crash that killed his cousin, 15-year-old David Torrez, and another driver, Calvin College student Tara Oskam.

Tara Oskam, David Torrez
Undated courtesy photos of Tara Oskam (left) and David Torrez.

Torrez, who was wheeled into the courtroom, didn’t show much emotion throughout the preliminary hearing but shook his head as the prosecutor recapped the events from the night of the crash, including that Torrez had traces of alcohol and marijuana in his system.

Four witnesses to the crash testified seeing headlights and then hearing an explosion on impact.

“The vehicle that came through the light hit the vehicle in front of me and they both just disappeared down the road,” witness Tanisha Jones testified.

Jones and her husband were driving behind Oskam, heading north on Broadmoor Avenue.

MSP said a trooper tried to pull over Torrez for speeding on US-131, but he continued on to 52nd Street. State records show Torrez didn’t have a legal license and was driving his mother’s car.

The chase spanned about six miles and lasted about five minutes before the fiery crash on 52nd and Broadmoor Avenue in Kentwood. That intersection was the fifth red light Torrez drove through, MSP Trooper Chris Bommarito testified.

police chase crash, 52nd street, broadmoor avenue, kentwood
The scene after a teen driver fled police and then crashed into another vehicle at the intersection of 52nd Street and Broadmoor Avenue in Kentwood. (March 11, 2017)

During the preliminary hearing Friday, the prosecution showed police dashcam video and photos of the chase and deadly crash.

Among the people who testified for the prosecution Friday was MSP traffic crash reconstruction specialist Sgt. Jim Campbell. He told the court they managed to pull data from the car Torrez was driving, showing speed and gas pedal pressure roughly two seconds before and leading up to impact.

“It increases slightly 105 [mph], 106, 107, 108, 109, then there’s a slight jump to 116 [mph] at about [three and four] tenths of a second prior to impact. Then it reduces back to 107 [mph] at the actual impact,” Sgt. Campbell testified.

He added that the gas pedal was pushed as far as it could go into the floorboard.

Campbell said in his 20 years he had never seen an ejection while buckled in, but based on the impact angle and speed, Oskam was “pulled right out of the (seat) belt.”

Judge Kelly held Torrez’s bond at $1 million based on Friday’s testimony. He also addressed both families in the courtroom.

“I’m sure it’s been very difficult to be here today and hear about this. From the reports I read in the newspaper [Oskam] was a beautiful young lady and my sympathies for you. And for the Torrez family, I know it’s difficult for you also. So it’s a very, very sad day for everybody,” Judge Kelly said as he addressed the emotional courtroom.