Police: Driver who hit, killed fire chief had marijuana in system

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s been nearly three months since Comstock Fire Chief Ed Switalski died in the line of duty.

Police say 24-year-old Brandon Clevenger lost control of his car, hitting and killing Switalksi on the side of I-94.

Prosecutors charged Clevenger with reckless driving causing death for allegedly hitting and killing Switalski in June. But was Clevenger driving under the influence of drugs?

On Wednesday, the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office provided 24 Hour News 8 with several, not-yet-released, police reports.

In the reports, it becomes clear what happened when paramedics took Clevenger to the hospital the night of the crash. A deputy sheriff interviews Clevenger and didn’t see any signs of intoxication.  Clevenger said he does not drink anymore and denied using street drugs or marijuana.

Kalamazoo Undersheriff Paul Matyas said there are three ways to get a chemical sample from a driver: a driver can agree to provide a sample, an officer can get a search warrant or the officer can get a warrant for the hospital records.

In this case, the deputy never asked Clevenger to take a chemical test the night of the crash and he didn’t ask a judge for a warrant for a sample that night.

“Getting the consent, that wasn’t a possibility, and going through all the blood draw stuff, that was not really going to work because of [Clevenger’s] condition,” said Matyas.

Three weeks after the crash, police did get a warrant for Clevenger’s hospital records, including his toxicology results.

Police discovered Clevenger had a “positive presumptive test for the illicit drug marijuana,” according to the reports.

But the test didn’t give a quantitative level, which means police couldn’t determine how much marijuana, if any, Clevenger had in his system at the time of the crash.

When the officer went to the hospital to see if the sample could be tested again, he discovered the hospital destroyed the sample because it was only a presumptive test.

“That night the driver of the vehicle, he was injured himself,” Matyas said. “And so, first and foremost, always, is the care for those drivers, so as to what condition he was in, we knew his condition, he was hurt.”

Chief Assistant Prosecutor Scott Brower says the maximum possible prison sentence for reckless driving causing death is the same as operating while intoxicated causing death.

Both charges carry a maximum possible penalty of 15 years in prison.

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