‘I told him not to get in the car,’ wife allegedly told police after husband crashed into Lawrence restaurant, injuring 3 people and himself

photo by: Kim Callahan

Emergency crews respond after a car struck the Big Mill restaurant at Ninth and Mississippi streets on Friday, Nov. 4, 2022.

A woman allegedly pleaded with her husband not to drive after he had been drinking before he crashed into a Lawrence restaurant at nearly 60 mph and injured three people, according to a recently released police affidavit.

The man, Brandon Lee Vess, 30, is charged in Douglas County District Court with his third DUI, three felony counts of aggravated battery while driving under the influence, one misdemeanor count of driving recklessly and one misdemeanor count of no proof of insurance. The charges are in connection with an incident on Nov. 4, 2022.

As the Journal-World previously reported, emergency crews were dispatched shortly after 8:30 p.m. that day to Big Mill restaurant, 900 Mississippi St., where a white SUV had crashed into the northwest corner of the restaurant and three people who were inside were injured.

According to an affidavit in support of Vess’ arrest, an officer was a block north of the restaurant and observed a white Toyota Highlander speeding on Ninth Street, and then the officer heard squealing tires and a crash.

The officer responded to the scene and found Vess alone in the vehicle, leaning over from the driver’s side into the passenger side, the affidavit said. Vess smelled of alcohol, the officer said. A piece of the SUV’s door panel had detached from the vehicle where the officer saw a single-shot bottle of tequila sitting on the door panel, according to the affidavit.

Vess’ wife responded to the scene and allegedly told officers that she and Vess had been in an argument prior to the crash.

“He was drinking. He was drinking,” the woman told an officer before she said, “I told him not to get in the car. I told him not to get in the (expletive) car.”

Vess was then taken to a regional trauma center with critical injuries, and a blood draw revealed Vess’ blood alcohol content was .16, twice the legal drinking limit, according to the affidavit.

Vess later told an officer that he had been drinking at an area club, according to the affidavit.

Four people were at the table in the northwest corner of the restaurant, where the car struck the building. When the car crashed into the building, the large glass windows shattered, and three people who were standing at the table were thrown. Each received lacerations and bruising. The woman who was seated at the table was not injured.

Police were able to pull crash data from Vess’ vehicle that showed he was driving at least 58 mph when he crashed into the building — in an area where the speed limit is 30 mph. The report notes that not only was it dark at the time of the crash, but that the roads were slick after several hours of rain.

Vess has two previous DUI convictions, one in March of 2017 and another in April of 2023, according to the affidavit.

Vess is currently out of custody on a $15,000 own-recognizance bond, meaning he was not required to pay any money to be released from jail. He is next scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 13. He was formally charged in connection with the crash in July, according to court records.


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