MORRISON – A Sterling man accused in a fatal weekend crash that killed a pedestrian and injured a police officer pleaded not guilty Monday to two counts of driving under the influence.
Wayne A. Witt Jr., 46, is charged with two counts of aggravated DUI resulting in death, each of which carries a mandatory minimum of 3 to 14 years in prison, and failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident.
Witt is in Whiteside County jail on $250,000 bond after today’s arraignment and bond hearing. Witt said said he intends to hire private counsel.
His preliminary hearing is Feb. 7.
Witt is accused of hitting and killing Drew A. Barger, 35, of Sterling, Sunday morning on First Avenue Bridge, just south of Wallace Street, as Barger was being questioned by Sterling police officer Travis Nease.
Barger was walking down the middle of the road around 12:40 a.m. when Nease parked in the southbound lane of the bridge, emergency lights activated, and got out of the squad car to talk to him, Whiteside County Sheriff John Booker said in a news release.
Nease was standing by the rear of the car talking to Barger when Witt’s northbound pickup crossed the centerline, striking Nease and the squad car, and trapping Barger under the truck. The truck then continued on, crashing into the viaduct center support, the release said.
Barger died at the scene.
Nease was treated at CGH Medical Center and released.
The bridge was closed from Second Street in Sterling to Second Street in Rock Falls until about 6:30 a.m.
Because the crash involves one of their officers, Sterling Police requested the Sheriff’s Department investigate, as is standard procedure, to avoid any conflict of interest.