The man accused of slamming his pickup truck into a group of bicyclists in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Tuesday night has been charged with second-degree murder.
Charlie Pickett, 50, of Battle Creek was charged with five counts of murder for killing five people and additional counts of reckless driving for injuring four others.
In a photo chilling photo he posted to Facebook in December, Pickett sat on a motorcycle with a beer in hand and the blue Chevrolet that turned into a mass murder machine in the background. Prosecutors who announced the charges Thursday did not say if Pickett was intoxicated during the crash, though he was not charged with driving under the influence.
Pickett often showed off an angry side on Facebook. "I'm not an asshole. I'm actually one of the nicest people you will ever meet," read one meme he posted. "I may look calm, but in my head I've punched you in the face 5 times," read another.
The fatal collision shook the town, coming just months after a rogue Uber driver Jason Dalton went on a shooting spree that killed six people and critically injured a 14-year-old girl.
"As members of the Kalamazoo community we have all been dealt a devastating blow by the deaths and injuries of so many innocent people," Kalamazoo County prosecutor Jeffrey Getting said. "Our hearts are saddened for the victims, their families and friends who are trying to cope with this tragedy. As a community, we must reach out to them and give them our support as we all struggle to deal with what has happened."
Pickett fled the scene of the crash on Tuesday, according to police, but was quickly apprehended.
“I seen a Dodge Ram fly past me coming past my house and I seen a blue truck spin around and land in someone's yard,” eyewitness Markus Eberhard told local station WWMT. “They caught him from running and I hope all the others ones live.”
Getting’s office identified the crash victims on Wednesday as Debra Ann Bradley, 53; Melissa Ann Fevig-Hughes, 42; Tony Nelson, 73; Larry Paulik, 74; and Suzanne Joan Sippel, 56.
“You were such a light in this life and you lived life to the fullest!” friend Jodie Beadle Corliss wrote about Fevig-Hughes, the mother of two young daughters. “Senseless tragedy. I can't even believe this is really true.”
Bradley and Suzanne Sippel were longtime friends who often rode together, according to Facebook.
“If I could have a beer with Jesus, I’d have some really deep questions for him and the all begin with ‘why,’” Mark Stutler, a friend of Bradley’s, wrote on Facebook.
“Suzanne was a valued member of the KBS community and worked closely with the LTER and GLBRC research projects here,” the Kellogg Biological Station, where Sippel worked, said in a statement on her death. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Suzanne during this very difficult time and our focus is on providing caring support to them.”
Peace House, a community organization in Kalamazoo, remembered Paulik and Nelson as devout Catholics who fought for greater roles for women in the church.
“Their understanding of faith was that God wants us to live peacefully with one another,” the organization wrote on its page. “Both confronted sexism by raising a prophetic call for women’s ordination to the priesthood in the Catholic Church. Larry and Tony were deeply dedicated to service of neighbor.”
Paul Douglas Gobble, 47; Sheila Diane Jeske, 53; and Paul Lewis Runnels, 65 are in serious condition at a local hospital. Jennifer Lynn Johnson, 40, is in fair condition, according to a list released by the prosecutor’s office.
The community will gather for a silent tribute ride Wednesday night, with cyclists wearing black and red armbands in memory of the victims.
“Last night our community experienced a senseless bicycling tragedy the likes of which I cannot recall,” Paul Selden of Bike Friendly Kalamazoo told The Daily Beast. “This is worth repeating: motorists and bicyclists need to share the road safely throughout the year, but be especially alert during peak bicycling season. I believe that as more facts come out, the kind of awareness-building messages and education we should be sharing with each other, will become clearer.”
— Additional reporting by Olivia Messer