Report: Driver distracted before hitting, killing fire chief

brandon clevenger
An Aug. 23, 2017 mug shot of Brandon Clevenger. (Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Office)

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A Calhoun County man was driving nearly 90 mph and distracted by his cellphone moments before hitting and killing Comstock Township Fire Chief Ed Switalski, the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office tells the Associated Press.

Brandon Clevenger, 24, of Battle Creek, was arraigned Wednesday afternoon on a charge of reckless driving causing death. He appeared nervous, taking several deep breaths during the video arraignment.

He had turned himself into authorities hours before, the sheriff’s office had told 24 Hour News 8.

The sheriff’s office told the Associated Press that on the night of June 14, Clevenger was driving nearly 90 mph and distracted by his phone just seconds before hitting a cement median wall then crossing lanes of I-94 and hitting Switalski. The chief, who was responding to a call at the time, died at the scene.

Comstock Township Department of Fire & Rescue Chief Ed Switalski
An undated courtesy photo of Comstock Township Department of Fire & Rescue Chief Ed Switalski.

Investigators were waiting for test results before issuing charges against Clevenger. Prosecutors did not charge him with any alcohol or drug-related driving offenses.

On Wednesday, the judge set a $5,000 personal recognizance bond, which means Clevenger can get out of jail while the case is pending without having to post any money upfront. The judge ordered Clevenger to report to the Office of Community Corrections to fitted with an alcohol tether.

If convicted, Clevenger could spend a maximum of 15 years in prison. He asked to be represented by a court-appointed attorney.

Arraignment is the first step in the legal process. The judge scheduled a status conference and a preliminary examination for September.

Switalski took over as Comstock Township fire chief in 2013. Before that, he was a firefighter in Illinois for more than 30 years. He left behind a wife and two daughters.

–The Associated Press contributed to this report.