Beach EMS officer charged in fatal crash after investigation into possible distracted driving


COURTHOUSE – A grand jury on Monday indicted a Virginia Beach emergency medical services officer on a count of reckless driving in connection to a crash that killed a woman near Lynnhaven Mall last month, according to a spokesperson for the commonwealth’s attorney.

As The Independent News first reported on April 1, the police investigation into the crash tried to determine whether EMS Brigade Chief Jeffrey L. Brennaman, 61, was distracted when he collided with another vehicle while driving a city SUV, according to a search warrant filed in Circuit Court.

An 88-year-old passenger in the other car, Doris V. Baxter, was pronounced dead after the morning crash on Tuesday, March 1. An unidentified woman driving the car Baxter rode in also was hurt, but her injuries were not life threatening, a police statement said at the time.

Brennaman was placed on administrative duty after the crash. He faces the charge of reckless driving-endanger life/limb, a class one misdemeanor, according to Macie Pridgen Allen, the spokesperson. Brennaman could face 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine, Pridgen Allen wrote in an email.

No court date is scheduled, she added.

Last month, Master Police Officer D.E. Pierce wrote an affidavit in support of the search warrant that sought to review data on Brennaman’s phone in connection with the collision.

Brennaman volunteered information about using his phone in the vehicle, Pierce wrote.  Brennaman said he was “doing the right thing” by providing the information, according to the affidavit. 

At about 9:13 a.m., Brennaman was operating a 2014 Tahoe, and SUV assigned to EMS, southbound on Lynnhaven Parkway when he collided with a 2003 Dodge Intrepid at North Mall Drive.

Baxter was pronounced dead at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital.

Brennaman told police in an interview that he had left the Emergency Medical Services building on Viking Drive and was headed toward the city garage. He stopped at a business near Guardian Drive to send a text message to his daughter and then called a friend, the affidavit said.

Driving south on Lynnhaven, he noticed a red signal and the sedan in the intersection, but he did not have time to stop. The SUV stuck the sedan on the passenger side, the affidavit said.

“By his own admission, Mr. Brennaman was on the phone during the crash and he was also sending messages prior to the crash,” Pierce wrote.

Baxter, born in Princess Anne County, graduated from the Princess Anne County Training School and attended Norfolk State University, according to an obituary.

Since the age of 12, she had been a member of First Lynnhaven Baptist Church, where her life was celebrated on Wednesday, March 9. She retired as a supervisor at the Navy Exchange at Naval Air Station Oceana, according to the obituary. 

She was predeceased by her husband, James V. Baxter.

They were married for 50 years. 

© 2016 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

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