by: Graham Johnson Updated:
FEDERAL WAY, Wash. - King County prosecutors have charged a driver with vehicular homicide after they say he struck a man on his bicycle in Federal Way.
According to court papers, the driver of a Honda, Dara Keo, 30, told police he had been using drugs, including marijuana, when he struck Craig Cronister, 44, on Military Road Aug. 30. Charging documents say witnesses saw Keo swerve repeatedly before the crash. "My kids don't have a dad anymore and my grandson doesn't have a grandfather anymore from that one choice," said Cronister's ex-wife, Trina Ternes.
According to court papers, Keo told officers: "I had a few beers and smoked a bowl, but I have a medical marijuana card so it's OK." Keo admits a history with Percocet and Oxycodone. Despite his claims, a breath test after the crash revealed Keo had not consumed alcohol. A drug recognition expert suspects Keo was under the influence of prescription drugs and marijuana. Toxicology tests will determine exactly what drugs if any Keo was using at the time of the crash.
Keo is jailed on $250,000 bail and will be arraigned Sept. 19.
Since voters legalized recreational marijuana, the Washington State Patrol has seen an increase in the number of marijuana cases handled by the toxicology lab. During the first half of last year, the lab handled 507. In the same period this year - after legalization - that jumped to 717.
But Bob Calkins at the State Patrol says that doesn't necessarily mean there's an increase in people driving stoned.
"We're not seeing a huge emergency develop," Calkins said.
He said the numbers could be the result of officers being more aware of marijuana. In the past, when officers found both marijuana and alcohol in a vehicle, they only paid attention to the alcohol, Calkins said.
"We had a breath test machine, we had a process, and when you got into court and they were impaired it didn't really matter which drug," Calkins said. Calkins says some prosecutors are now asking police officers to immediately request a search warrant for a blood test to detect marijuana impairment, rather than wait for a drug recognition expert.
"Because marijuana leaves the system so quickly, they're interested in getting that blood as quickly as possible," he said.