BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — A Battle Creek man was behind the wheel of a pickup truck that hit nine cyclists, killing five riders and injuring four others, a source tells 24 Hour News 8.
Charles Pickett Jr., 50, is the driver who was taken into custody shortly after Tuesday’s crash, a source close to the investigation confirmed.
Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeffrey Getting expects to decide what charges the suspect will face on Thursday, after receiving blood test results.
“Up to the possibility of a murder charge. If there’s evidence he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, operating while under the influence causing death is a possibility,” Getting told 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday.
The 50-year-old driver who hit the nine bicyclists had a short criminal record, but was legally licensed to drive according to Getting and a source close to the investigation.
Authorities said a blue Chevrolet pickup truck hit the cyclists from behind around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday near Markin Glen Park in the 5500 block of N. Westnedge Avenue in Cooper Township, north of Kalamazoo.Five of the cyclists died at the scene; four others were seriously injured.
The source said the driver did not leave the area and was not trying to run from police when he was taken into custody shortly after the crash. That source also said the driver was not acting obviously drunk.
Three agencies in Kalamazoo County received calls about a driver in a blue Chevrolet pickup truck driving erratically approximately a half-hour before the crash. Getting said Wednesday he doesn’t know if police were actually out searching for the driver.>>Inside woodtv.com: Complete coverage of the Kalamazoo cycling tragedy
“It’s a moving target. This isn’t where they were called to a specific address to address a problem, their response is to look for somebody who is moving through the community. How close they were, I don’t know,” Getting added.
Officials say they are still waiting on blood test results to determine whether Pickett may have been under the influence of something at the time of the crash. The results could influence the charges he faces.
A source says the suspect was treated at the scene for minor injuries, then taken to the hospital for an undisclosed reason.
Pickett lives in Battle Creek with his family; a family member said his mother and sister own a local hair salon.
Battle Creek’s police chief said his department has had minimal contact with Pickett, but none of it was criminal. He could not elaborate. 24 Hour News 8 could not find a criminal record for Pickett in Michigan.
Family members say Pickett previously lived in Tennessee.
He recently divorced from his wife, her daughter told 24 Hour News 8.