No charges against taxi driver who hit, killed robber

Police investigate after a man was hit and killed by a taxi after he tried to rob the driver near Jefferson Avenue and Fulton Street in Grand Rapids. (March 23, 2017)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A taxi cab driver who hit and killed an armed robber will not face criminal charges, the Kent County prosecutor has decided.

The prosecutor said evidence from the March 23 incident supports the conclusion that Timothy Coleman’s death was an accident.

Tuesday’s ruling also revealed the moments leading up to his death.

Jake Strickland told police he picked up Coleman at the Family Fare at Fuller Avenue and Leonard Street NE and was turning onto Madison Avenue SE when he felt an object pressed into his shoulder and was hit in the head, according to the prosecutor’s report.

Coleman said something like “I’m going to blast your guts out if you don’t give me your money,” the report stated.

Strickland reportedly told Coleman they were both going to die that night because he was going to drive the cab into a building if he was going to get robbed. He then turned onto Jefferson Avenue SE at a high rate of speed, scaring Coleman enough that he asked to be let out of the cab at Jefferson and Fulton Street.

Strickland stopped the car and let Coleman get out, according to the report. At this time he saw Coleman had a hammer, not a gun.

Strickland’s cab stalled as he tried to leave, according to the prosecutor’s report. At this time, he realized Coleman had taken his lunchbox as he left the cab. Still armed with a hammer, Coleman then approached the driver’s window and demanded money, the report states.

Strickland tried to restart the cab and put it in reverse, but it stalled again. The next time he restarted it and put it in reverse, Coleman had moved behind the cab and was hit, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Strickland said he lost sight of Coleman as he drove in reverse to see where Coleman was heading so he could tell police.

When Strickland pulled forward, he saw he had hit Coleman, who was directly behind his cab on his knees, going through his lunchbox, the prosecutor’s report stated.

Coleman apologized three times before he sat down on the sidewalk, according to the report. Strickland called his dispatch to let them know he hit someone. By the time police arrived, Coleman had collapsed and died at the scene.

The evidence backed up Strickland’s account, the prosecutor’s office said. Officers recovered the hammer at the scene, Calder City Cab confirmed that particular vehicle had issues with stalling, and a dispatch ticket showed Strickland had picked someone up at the Family Fare at 1:41 a.m., according to authorities.

Coleman’s ex-wife told police he had been struggling with addiction for two decades and he had threatened people with a hammer at least three other times, the prosecutor’s office said.

An autopsy found Coleman died of multiple blunt chest injuries; bilateral rib fractures, a bilateral hemothorax and cardiac contusions. The injuries on his body were consistent with being run over, it concluded.

The prosecutor’s office concluded Strickland “exercised remarkable restraint” during a “very unusual and surprising situation.”