Officer had drinks prior to car crash.
Diamondback, 23 Sep 2008 (Worsley ).
A Prince George's County police officer involved in a car accident last December that killed a university student admitted to drinking earlier that morning, according to police reports.
The victim, 20-year-old Brian Gray, tested negative for drugs and alcohol during a police investigation at the time of the crash. But the police officer, Mario Chavez, was not tested or asked by investigators if he had been drinking, according to his deposition as reported by The Washington Post.
Chavez admitted in the deposition that he had three or four drinks earlier in the morning, fell asleep on a friend's couch and was hurrying home to change before reporting for duty when his car collided with Gray's near Bowie, the Post reported.
This is the latest development in a case that has been ongoing for a little less than a year. On Dec. 10, Gray was driving from his hometown of Bowie to the campus to take a final exam when his car was struck by Chavez's car. Chavez was off-duty but driving a police cruiser. Gray's mother was driving in a separate car behind Gray and witnessed the crash.
Police released a report in June saying both drivers were responsible for the accident. The report said Gray should have yielded to a stop sign, but Chavez was driving 50 mph on a residential street, more than twice that area's legal limit.
Gray's family has filed a $2 million wrongful death lawsuit against Chavez and Prince George's County, the Post reported.
Officer Henry Tippett, a spokesman for Prince George's County Police, declined to comment on the case because the trial is ongoing.
Megan Johns, a junior from Salisbury University, was friends with Gray for five years. The two worked together at T.J. Elliott's Restaurant in Bowie, and she said Gray "was like a big brother to me."
"He was always there to make us laugh and be the life of the group," Johns said.
Mike McQuade, one of Gray's best friends, said Gray "could make you laugh so hard that milk came out of your nose."
McQuade and Johns were both critical of the police investigation. Johns called it "totally biased against Brian."
"I believe anytime you are involved in a fatal accident, the question, 'Have you been drinking today?' should always be asked and not nine months later," McQuade said in a Facebook message. "There's just a lot of shady information that's been going on in this investigation, and I pray that we're finally getting to the end now."
As details from the case are gradually coming to light, Gray's family and friends continue to struggle with the reality that he is no longer alive.
"I still wear the bracelet from the company he donated his organs to," Johns said in a Facebook message. "I still go on his Facebook, look at his pictures and think about him non-stop."
"I still wake up every morning not knowing what it's gonna be like to grow up without Brian, and still knowing every morning that I lost my best friend," McQuade said.