Man charged in fatal pedestrian crash in front of Shinola is headed to trial

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Surveillance video was played in court Friday of a driver, allegedly high on drugs, plowing through a crowd outside the Shinola store in Midtown.

Deandre Simmons, 42, told police he drank alcohol, took Xanax and Ecstasy before speeding into a crowd on Canfield near Cass and killing 73-year-old John McDaniels.

A friend of the victim with him during the incident, Douglas Vanorden, appeared in court to testify.

"All of a sudden this blue truck came around a group of cars and started heading directly for us," he said.

He originally told FOX 2 he thought it was a terrorist attack.

"My natural reflex was to put my hands out and hit it on the hood of the car, my hands," he said. "Then I was thrown and my leg hit something,"

Simmons is charged with six counts, including operating under the influence causing death and reckless driving causing death.

"The passenger of the blue truck approached me and stated 'Man, he hit the people. He hit the people' is what he said," said Wayne State Police Officer Julian Gherasim.

Prosecutors say just before the crash, Simmons had been blocking cars and driving on the wrong side of the street.

Then, when making a turn onto Canfield, he hit three people crossing the street, injuring two and killing McDaniels.

Officers say when they approached Simmons, they could smell alcohol.

"(He had) glazed eyes, pupils dilated, he appeared disoriented," said Gherasim.

Police say Simmons admitted to drinking alcohol and taking narcotics.

"He told me he took the Ecstasy pills," Gherasim said.

Defense attorney: "Have you seen the report where there was none of that in his system?"

"I have not," Gherasim said.

The defense argued that Simmons' blood alcohol level was under the legal limit at 0.04, adding that Simmons had to swerve out of the way so he wouldn't hit another car.

A detective read Simmons' statement:

"'After I swerved, I suddenly crashed into some people who appeared in between some parked cars,'" said Det. Christopher Weitzel, Detroit police.

While prosecutors say clearly Simmons had been speeding and driving recklessly, they also argue that you can't see another car in the video.

The video, they say, speaks for itself.

The judge has dropped two of those counts involving intoxication, but is sending Simmons to trial on the four serious charges remaining.

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