Investigators suspect driver accused in fatal crash was under influence of marijuana

MILWAUKEE — A 22-year-old Milwaukee man has been criminally charged in connection with a fatal crash that happened near 13th and Capitol Drive on January 5th — accused of causing the death of James Bentley.

The crash involved two vehicles — a blue Chevy Astro van and a red BMW X3.

Bentley was the driver of the van. He was pronounced dead at the scene as a result of multiple blunt force injuries.

A criminal complaint says Larreon Hopkins was the driver of the BMW. The complaint says first responders noted a strong odor of marijuana coming from Hopkins at the scene.

A witness told investigators she was headed westbound on Capitol Drive on the morning of January 5th, around 8:00 a.m. when she spotted a red SUV coming up behind her at a high rate of speed — weaving in and out of traffic. Near 12th and Capitol, the witness stated the SUV passed her on the right and she noted there was only one person inside. She estimated the SUV was traveling at about 70 miles-per-hour. She said she was about to call police when she saw the red SUV smashed in the middle of the road, and a blue van, also smashed.

Hopkins was arrested at the scene, and taken to the hospital for a blood draw. That sample was sent to the Crime Lab to determine whether Hopkins was operating his vehicle with a prohibited controlled substance in his blood.

Hopkins was interviewed by police and said the red BMW he was driving on January 5th was a loaner he received while his vehicle was being repaired. According to the complaint, he said he was visiting a friend near Humboldt and Capitol and left to pick up his girlfriend at 34th and Brown to take her to work.

Hopkins indicated he was traveling at about 35 miles-per-hour, and he said there was a semi to his right. As he neared 13th and Capitol, Hopkins told police the blue van pulled into the intersection and stopped. Hopkins said he applied his brakes and attempted to go around the rear of the van, but his vehicle collided with it.

According to the complaint, Hopkins said he hadn’t smoked marijuana since “a day or two” before his sentencing on December 16th for possession of marijuana. He said on the night of January 4th, he was in his vehicle with a girl who had been smoking marijuana, but he hadn’t smoked any. He said if there was any marijuana in his system, it was from secondhand smoke.

The complaint states investigators obtained a search warrant to take a look at the “event data” recorded in the “Airbag Control Module” of the BMW X3. That data showed Hopkins was traveling at at least 69 miles-per-hour at the time of the crash.

The posted speed limit on Capitol Drive is 30 miles-per-hour.

Hopkins faces one count of second degree reckless homicide.

He made his initial appearance in court in this case on Tuesday, January 10th. Probable cause was found for further proceedings in this case. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for January 20th.

Cash bond was set at $2,500.