Man pleads guilty to vehicular homicide charge connected to 2021 crash

A Minneapolis man who was charged with criminal vehicular homicide in relation to an April 2021 crash has entered a guilty plea.

According to court documents, 31-year-old Darrin Gregory Jr. entered the plea on Monday morning as part of a deal. In exchange, the petition states a 48-month sentence would be stayed and he’s expected to serve up to 180 days at the Hennepin County Workhouse, get three to five years of probation, participate in nearly two dozen panels educating the community about safe and distracted driving, complete a chemical dependency evaluation and more.

Gregory’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for the morning of Aug. 17.

As previously reported by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, troopers were called to a crash on eastbound Highway 62 and Portland Avenue in Richfield at about 10:16 a.m. on April 15. At the time, the roadway was down to one lane, and road construction was ongoing, causing traffic to be backed up.

Troopers who responded to the crash found four vehicles involved, one of which was a Ford F-150, driven by Gregory. Authorities said he was trapped inside his truck and was extracted before being taken to Hennepin County Medical Center.

Other vehicles involved were identified as a Honda Civic, a Chevrolet Equinox and a Kia Optima. Authorities say they found the Civic on the far-right shoulder area where Highway 62 and Interstate 35 meet, and the driver was dead inside the vehicle.

The driver of the Equinox told troopers he was driving east in the far-left lane on Highway 62 when he saw construction ahead and slowed down. He then saw the Civic approaching from behind and was hit in the rear by the Civic and pushed forward. The driver stated he heard another “bang,” felt a second impact and saw a red truck upside down, flipping in the air over his vehicle.

Troopers then spoke with Gregory while he was at HCMC, and he told them he was on a FaceTime call at the time of the crash, saying his phone was mounted to the windshield and he wasn’t looking at it.

Gregory then told troopers the driver in front of him slammed on their brakes, and he didn’t have time to react, since he was about two car lengths behind. The complaint states Gregory told troopers he then hit the car and his truck went through the air before hitting the pavement and sliding forward.

Authorities say they then examined the phone and found the call with Gregory’s wife ended two minutes after his vehicle crashed into the Civic. They also reviewed camera footage from the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and saw traffic was moving slowly and appeared to stop at times in the area of the crash.

The complaint states that during the review, troopers saw a Kia in the left lane and approaching heavy traffic, with the Chevy directly behind it at about 10:04:38 a.m., with both vehicles barely moving. A timestamp of about 10:05:07 shows the Civic in the left lane when it hits the rear end of the Chevy, which then tries to immediately move to the shoulder. The Civic is then shown appearing to be disabled in the left lane.

The complaint goes on to say at about 10:05:10, the Gregory’s Ford F-150 enters the view, and is traveling in the left lane, and is seen hitting the back end of the Civic at about 10:05:17. The Civic then is pushed across the southbound lane of I-35 and into the far-right shoulder.

Authorities say the Ford traveled partially over the Civic as it rotated, and landed on its driver’s side and hits the Chevy with its roof, causing the Chevy to be pushed into the Kia’s driver’s side. Eventually, they say the Ford stopped on its roof in the left lane of Highway 62.

Troopers say before and at the time the Ford hit the Civic, the truck didn’t appear to brake or try to avoid the crash.

After a crash reconstruction and review of the airbag control modules were done by the State Patrol, they found the primary factor in the crash was Gregory’s failure to react to the changing conditions, and a secondary factor was his driving over the posted speed limits, and possible distraction due to the FaceTime call.

The complaint states the crash reconstruction analysis shows the calculated impact speed for the Ford when it hit the Civic was between 63 and 71 mph, and the tires on the truck were about 9% larger than recommended. Authorities say the tire size can affect the vehicle speedometer and odometer.

According to the crash reconstruction report, if adjusted for possible speedometer errors and doesn’t account for the different tire sizes, the speed range for the Ford would be between 68 and 73 mph, but if the module that reads vehicle speed wasn’t calibrated to account for the size change, the speed range would be between 74 and 80 mph.

The complaint states the steering input from the Ford’s ACM shows little to no change in the five seconds before the crash, which shows it was traveling with no change from the driver before the crash.