A 30-year-old Kenyan man was on Wednesday charged in a US Superior Court with killing a state trooper through reckless driving while under the influence of drugs.
David Njuguna of Webster, Massachusetts, pleaded not guilty to multiple charges of manslaughter, motor vehicle homicide, operating to endanger, operating under the influence of drugs, and operating an uninsured motor vehicle before the court.
Prosecutors said Mr Njuguna was “in an impaired state” when his car rammed into Massachusetts State Police Trooper Thomas Clardy’s cruiser on March 16 this year, causing the officer’s death.
Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Travers told Judge Daniel Wrenn that the accused had visited a medical marijuana dispensary one hour prior to the crash.
“Our investigators found a half-smoked marijuana cigarette inside the vehicle that plowed into a State Police cruiser in March,” the prosecutor told an attentive courtroom.
Trooper Clardy, 44, was on duty in his vehicle on the side of the Massachusetts Turnpike in Charlton on the fateful day when the car Mr Njuguna was driving crossed three lanes of traffic and slammed into the officer's cruiser.
Authorities said at the time that Mr Njuguna was driving 81 miles per hour at the moment of impact.
The charge sheet states that THG, an active ingredient in the marijuana drug, was found in Mr Njuguna’s blood following a test carried out at a local hospital.
Mr Njuguna, who appeared in court with his wrists heavily bandaged, denied all the charges through his lawyer, Peter Ettenberg.
“He absolutely denies he was under the influence of any drugs,” said Mr Ettenberg.
The defence lawyer said his client requires more physical therapy as he was seriously injured in the crash.
Judge Wrenn ordered that Mr Njuguna be held on a $500,000 (Sh50 million) cash bail and be put on a GPS monitoring system until June 30, when he is due back in court.
The defence lawyer described the bail amount as excessive, saying that Mr Njuguna had been “totally cooperative” as the investigation played out.
“He feels terrible,” said the attorney. “We all feel terrible. This was an accident. We’ll learn what happened, why it happened, at a later time,” added Ettenberg.
However, State Police Colonel Richard McKeon said at a press briefing on Wednesday that the charges were the result of a “through, comprehensive and fair grand jury investigation.”
“This is the result of facts and evidence, not emotions,” he said.
Mr Njuguna has been living in Worcester for nine years.