Man was playing ‘air guitar’ and ‘jamming out a bit’ when he fatally hit pedestrian: Cops


Brent James Keranen (Carlton County Sheriff's Office)

Brent James Keranen (Carlton County Sheriff’s Office)

A 21-year-old Minnesota man accused of fatally striking a pedestrian with his car allegedly told police he did not even see the victim because he was “jamming out” and playing “air guitar” while behind the wheel.

Brent James Keranen was taken into custody on Thursday and charged with one count of criminal vehicular homicide — operating a motor vehicle in a grossly negligent manner in the death of 61-year-old Justin McNeil, court records reviewed by Law&Crime show.

According to a probable cause affidavit, officers with the Moose Lake Police Department, deputies with the Carlton County Sheriff’s Office, and troopers with the Minnesota State Patrol responded to reports of a driver striking and killing an adult male on Minnesota Highway 73, which is just over 100 miles north of Minneapolis.

Upon arriving at the scene, first responders learned that McNeil had just left a nearby Dollar General store and was walking on the northbound shoulder of the highway with his items. Police learned that Keranen was driving northbound on the road when he veered onto the shoulder and rammed into McNeil, who was pronounced dead on the scene.

Investigators said they learned that a few hours before allegedly killing McNeil, Keranen had fallen asleep while driving and “struck or contacted” a state trooper’s car. Keranen told police that he was tested and had a .066 blood alcohol concentration. He admitted he was tired from working a lot of hours and being up “very late” the previous night drinking with friends. Keranen was given a citation but was allowed to continue driving.

Authorities said that the tracks on the highway showed that Keranen’s vehicle went off the road and onto the shoulder, which is where he struck McNeil. Keranen told investigators that he and McNeil did not know each other.

“The defendant explained to law enforcement that he was listening to the radio when a good song began playing, prompting the defendant to play ‘air guitar’ to the song, when suddenly, his vehicle’s air bags deployed,” police wrote in the affidavit. “The defendant also made later statements he was ‘looking down and jamming out a bit and next thing you know I hit somebody.’”

Keranen also allegedly told police that at the time of the collision, he had his cruise control set to 52 mph despite the posted speed limit in the area being 40 mph.

Investigators also noted that Keranen appeared to be showing “signs of impairment” at the scene. He performed a field sobriety test which resulted in “several clues of impairment,” the affidavit states. A preliminary breath test performed at the site of the crash determined that Keranen’s blood alcohol concentration was .06, which is below the legal limit of .08. Police also took a blood sample from Keranen which was sent to a lab for further testing.

If convicted, Keranen faces a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison.

It was not immediately clear if Keranen was still in detention. The Carlton County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to messages from Law&Crime.

Keranen is currently scheduled to appear in court on April 1.

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *