City's Top Traffic Reconstruction Expert: "Man, This Truck Just Creamed A Dozen Cars"

Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Officer Joe Warren
Officer Joe Warren

The Chattanooga Police Department's top traffic reconstruction expert testified Tuesday that when he first viewed the scene of an horrific crash at the Ooltewah exit he thought "Man, this truck just creamed a dozen cars."

Officer Joe Warren told a jury from Nashville that, according to his calculations, Benjamin Scott Brewer was traveling at 81-82 miles per hour when he struck a line of traffic halted for construction on I-75 northbound.

He also told the jury, "It looks like he never slowed down."

Brewer is on trial in the courtroom of Judge Don Poole on six counts of vehicular homicide by intoxication, DUI, speeding and four counts of reckless aggravated assault.

Six people died in the June 25, 2015, crash and several more suffered serious injuries.

Officer Warren said he was with a Boy Scout troop at nearby Collegedale when he got the news of the crash. He said he hurried to his home, then went by police motorcycle to the scene.

He said it was obvious that the truck had struck the vehicles "with massive impact."

Officer Warren said the load-less Peterbilt truck still weighed almost 31,000 pounds. He said it first hit a 2,500-pound Toyota Prius driven by Bradley County's Brian Gallaher.

He said the demolished Prius spun out of control and hit a Scion before striking a van that was near the center barrier. The four occupants of the Scion all perished. Jason Ramos, whose vehicle was impaled at the front of the Brewer truck, also died.

Officer Warren said the black box on the Prius showed that it was going 13 miles per hour before the crash and was at 5 mph at the time it was hit from behind. He said it then was hurled forward at 77 mph.

Lt. John Harmon of the Tennessee Highway Patrol said the brakes on the Brewer truck were in good working order.

He said the truck would have stopped "had he applied the brakes." There were no skid marks at all from the truck, it was noted.

The defense noted that the governor on the truck was set at a high speed of 75 mph. Trooper Harmon said it would have gone faster during a shift to a different gear.

He said the vehicle had a radar detector on it, and he said the annual truck inspection "looked to be falsified."

Collegedale Police Chief Brian Hickman said he did an examination of Brewer that night at his office to try to determine whether he was on some sort of intoxicant.

He said Brewer was "quiet and somber" during the test.

Chief Hickman said Brewer's blood pressure and pulse were up and his pupils dilated. He said he did poorly on several field tests.

He concluded that he was on a stimulant such as meth and a depressant. A drug test came back from the TBI Lab not showing a depressant but listing the stimulant meth in his blood.

Chief Hickman, who was the first person in Tennessee to be classified as a drug recognition expert, said labs do not test for all depressants.

Under cross-examination, he acknowledged that that type testing gets it right on depressants 50 percent of the time and on stimulants 33 percent of the time. He denied that it is "junk science."

A witness from the TBI Crime Lab said Brewer tested positive for meth in his blood stream.

The test was negative for alcohol.

The defense is contending that Brewer was not on any intoxicant.

Collegedale Police Chief Brian Hickman
Collegedale Police Chief Brian Hickman


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