KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Misdemeanor charges, including a drunken driving charge, have been filed against the St. Joseph County sheriff in connection to a February crash on US-131 in Kalamazoo County.
The Kalamazoo County prosecutor announced Thursday he had authorized charges of operating while intoxicated and carrying a concealed weapon while under the influence of alcohol against Mark Lillywhite. A document released by the prosecutor shows the charges were authorized Wednesday.
Both charges are misdemeanors that carry a maximum penalty of 93 days in jail and/or fines. If convicted of the weapons charge, Lillywhite would also lose his concealed pistol license, the charging document shows.
The crash happened around 2:20 a.m. Feb. 26 on US-131 near West YZ Avenue south of Schoolcraft. Authorities say Lillywhite, 47, of Three Rivers, rear-ended another car, shoving both vehicles off the road and causing the other car to roll. No one was seriously hurt.
Michigan State Police reports show that after the crash, Lillywhite told troopers he wasn’t driving his SUV, though he was the only person in it.
“I … asked Lillywhite who was driving the vehicle he was in and he said, ‘I have no idea,’” a trooper wrote in a report. “I again asked who was driving the vehicle and Lillywhite stated, ‘To be honest with you, bad, bad, bad, but no, I don’t.’”
Data pulled from the SUV showed Lillywhite was going nearly 100 mph in the five seconds before the crash and that he never hit the brakes. The people in the car that was rear-ended and witnesses said the SUV’s headlights weren’t on.
The SUV is registered to the St. Joseph County Sheriff’s Office and MSP said it is Lillywhite’s duty vehicle. Troopers said there were three guns in it: a loaded pistol in the center console and another pistol and rifle, as well as ammunition, in the back.
Troopers said Lillywhite was visibly drunk when they arrived on the scene. In a police report, a trooper described smelling the alcohol in the SUV and said Lillywhite staggered, slurred his speech, was incoherent and had bloodshot eyes.
The police reports show Lillywhite wouldn’t give information to the troopers about the crash and refused to take a roadside sobriety test and breath test. He was taken to the hospital to have his blood drawn. He was arrested and released the same day. MSP investigated and sent its report to the Kalamazoo County prosecutor for a decision on charges.
The prosecutor said the court would set Lillywhite’s arraignment date.