Driver charged for causing fatal crash in KC while fleeing police

01/15/2014 11:27 AM

01/15/2014 11:27 AM

Jason R. Lewis died while doing something he often did: lending a helping hand to someone in need.

Lewis, a father of five children including 6-year-old twins, was driving friends home from a trip to the grocery store Monday morning when another car allegedly ran a red light and broadsided their car, killing Lewis and seriously injuring his two passengers.

The other driver also was doing something he often has done, according to court records: driving without a valid license.

Andrew K. Stark, a 22-year-old Independence man on probation for driving with a revoked license, was charged Tuesday with second-degree felony murder in the death of Lewis.

Prosecutors filed the felony murder charge because the crash at 23rd Street and Hardesty Avenue allegedly occurred as a result of “resisting a lawful stop,” which is a felony. They also filed an alternative charge of involuntary manslaughter.

Minutes before the fatal crash, an Independence police officer operating radar at 23rd Street and Hall Road in the western part of that city saw a speeding silver Saab almost strike another vehicle.

The officer began pursuing the Saab’s driver, who allegedly drove more than 100 mph, weaving in and out of traffic, west on 23rd into eastern Kansas City, according to court records.

The Independence officer stopped the pursuit east of 23rd and Topping Avenue.

The Saab continued westbound for about five blocks to Hardesty, where Lewis was driving a southbound Chevrolet Caprice. Witnesses told police that the Saab ran a red light before the collision, according to court documents.

Although court documents don’t mention how fast the Saab was going at the time of the crash, they note that the force of the collision shoved the Chevrolet’s driver’s door about 18 inches into the passenger compartment and bent the Chevrolet’s frame.

The Saab’s driver ran from the scene, pursued by bystanders who pointed Stark out to police officers who arrested him about a block away, court records said.

Although he is the registered owner of the Saab, Stark denied being involved in the incident, according to the court documents.

Lewis, 35, died at the scene. One of his passengers, 35-year-old Vanetta L. Williams, remained in critical condition Tuesday. A 17-year-old passenger, Shareyaha R. King, initially was listed in serious condition. An update on her condition was not available Tuesday.

Stark was charged with two counts of second-degree assault for their injuries. He also was charged in Jackson County Circuit Court with resisting a lawful police stop, driving with a revoked or suspended license, and leaving the scene of an injury accident.

A judge set a $100,000 cash bond. Stark remained in custody Tuesday night.

According to Jackson County court records, Stark was placed on probation for two years in September after pleading guilty to driving with a suspended or revoked license.

In December, he pleaded guilty in another case to charges of driving while revoked and driving without proper insurance, and was sentenced to serve seven days in jail, according to the records.

Prosecutors noted in the court documents filed Tuesday that Stark has five prior convictions for driving with a revoked or suspended license and two convictions for leaving the scene of a traffic crash.

Rachel Lewis was at work Monday morning when she learned of the crash from co-workers who saw coverage of it on television.

She rushed to the scene where she learned that her husband was dead.

“He was a good man,” she said Tuesday. “He was a family man.”

The couple has five children, ranging in age from 16 to the 6-year-old twins. Jason Lewis worked as a dietary host at a Kansas City nursing home. His boss at the nursing home said she had “nothing but good things” to say about him.

When friends needed a ride to the store on Monday, Lewis borrowed a car so he could take them.

“He was just doing what he does, helping people,” said his cousin, Latanya Hampton. “Other than that, he was all about his family.”