Car’s black box sought to find out if driver left road when boy was hit during UK game

Jacob Heil
Jacob Heil

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A car’s black box data has been sought by Lexington police trying to corroborate a witness’s statement that an 18-year-old driver swerved suddenly to the right before striking a boy outside a University of Kentucky football game, according to court records.

Lexington police obtained a search warrant for information from the 2012 Hyundai Sonata driven by Jacob Heil. Another search warrant sought information from his phone. Heil is accused of driving drunk when he hit 4-year-old Marco Shemwell Sept. 15. Marco died two days later.

Heil’s attorney Christopher Spedding said “all the information we have is that he did not” veer off the road.

Through the vehicle search warrant, issued Sept. 18 and filed Thursday in Fayette County District Court, police sought the vehicle’s event data recorder, which can include such data as vehicle speed, steering angle, accelerator percentage and brake status, according to court documents.

A witness said Heil’s vehicle left “the roadway for no apparent reason,” according to the search warrant. The witness said Heil was traveling outbound on Cooper Driver and suddenly swerved to the right, which resulted in him hitting Marco, “who was reportedly standing on the side of the road with his father and brother as they waited to cross the street,” court documents said.

Police also got permission to search Heil’s iPhone.

“The phone may have evidence of events leading up to the collision which will help establish a timeline of events prior to the collision,” the search warrant said.

“Actions leading up to the collision may also supplement the investigation as to why the vehicle reportedly experienced the sudden swerve reported by the witness,” the warrant said.

Heil had a “strong odor of alcoholic beverages, red bloodshot watery eyes and showed signs of impairment on field sobriety tests,” according to his arrest citation. He told police he consumed two beers at a University of Kentucky football tailgating party at about 9:30 a.m., and had a few sips of beer at a second location, court records show. Marco was hit about 2 p.m.

A police report showed Heil had a blood-alcohol level of 0.051. The legal limit for those over age 21 is 0.08. For those under 21, the limit is 0.02.

Heil pleaded not guilty last week to driving under the influence.

Heil took a preliminary breath test at the scene, but Spedding said that evidence is not admissible in court.

Portable breath tests “are inherently unreliable,” Spedding said last week. “They’re strictly used as an investigative tool by the police. The results are not admissible in court.”

The next court appearance for Heil is scheduled for Oct. 26. Heil was suspended from the university following the accident.

In addition, the national Alpha Tau Omega chapter dissolved its UK chapter after finding it violated the organization’s health and safety policy. Heil reportedly was a pledge. The fraternity had collected money to buy alcohol to serve at a tailgate held off campus at 214 Waller Avenue on the day of the game. In addition to minors having alcohol, a UK letter to the fraternity said, an investigation noted that pledges also served alcohol to fraternity members, which was a hazing offense.

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