FORT WAYNE – Former Indianapolis police officer David Bisard will spend the next several years in prison, left to think about the deadly collision he caused in August 2010.
But the family of the man he killed wonders whether the time behind bars will get him to the point where he admits what the evidence showed, and what the jury believed – that he was driving drunk, at high speed, in his police car while he was on duty.
Allen Superior Court Judge John Surbeck wondered the same before he sentenced Bisard to 13 years in prison.
Until he accepts he was drunk, instead of these blatant denials, Surbeck said. We’re not going to get anywhere, Mr. Bisard.
For the first time in the three years since the crash, Bisard addressed the surviving victims and families.
It was also a rare expression of emotion for the 39-year-old former K-9 officer, who sat stone-faced through every hearing and every day of testimony.
The only other time he showed any reaction was as his wife described their lives together with their two daughters, and the struggles she’s had since he’s been in jail.
On Nov. 5, an Allen Superior Court jury convicted Bisard of operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing death; operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing death with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.15 percent or more; reckless homicide; two counts of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated causing bodily injury with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or more; two counts of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated causing bodily injury; and two counts of criminal recklessness.
After more than two weeks of testimony, the jury ruled Bisard was drunk when he drove his squad car into the back of a pair of motorcycles stopped at a traffic light in August 2010.
One of the bikers, 30-year-old Eric Wells, was killed, and Mary Mills and Kurt Weekly were critically injured. The case was moved to Fort Wayne because of extensive media coverage in Indianapolis.
While Bisard was out on bond for the 2010 case, he was arrested in April after he crashed a friend’s truck into a guardrail. A blood test showed he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.22 percent, according to court documents. The state’s legal limit to drive is 0.08 percent.
Bisard’s attorney John Kautzman presented testimony from a local forensic psychologist, a former co-worker of Bisard’s as well as a longtime friend. All spoke of his expressions of remorse and sorrow since the crash.
When she testified on behalf of her husband, Bisard’s wife said she’d looked for a reason why. Maybe it happened so we can deal with adversity as a family, she said.
But the family of Eric Wells, particularly his widow, Luisa Montilla Wells, reminded the court of what she had lost.
I don’t have my husband, she said. I don’t have my best friend.
Montilla Wells reminded Surbeck of the video footage from a convenience store taken not long after the crash, when Bisard’s co-workers took him to buy a soda and chewing tobacco before taking him for a blood test.
He’s hanging around, having a soda. Any regular citizen would have been distraught, she said. It bewildered me honestly, watching that video. He still needs an eye-opener.
Looking at Bisard, sitting between his lawyers and wearing the orange- and white-striped uniform of a prisoner kept in protective custody, Montilla Wells told him it was his actions alone that put him there. You drove the car, no one else, she said as he nodded slightly.
Ryan Wells, Eric Wells’ younger brother, tearfully spoke of nightmares he has had since his brother’s death and too expressed concern about Bisard’s ability to accept responsibility.
I don’t think prison will change him, Ryan Wells said. He’s arrogant enough to think he did no wrong. He already did it again.
The surviving victims – Mary Mills and her now-husband Kurt Weekly – described the horrific natures of their injuries, the effects of which will be with them for the rest of their lives.
Mills said she is in pain every day, and does not even know all the bones she broke or what all was done to put her back together. She said she recently learned she has a plate in her neck, one now causing bone spurs, part of the ongoing and ever-increasing pain she will live with from the crash.
Weekly has no memory of the crash, and the severe head injury he suffered left him about 50 percent of where he was before, he said.
When it was his turn to speak, Bisard acknowledged that he was the one driving the car, having looked down at his computer as he neared the intersection. But he continued to maintain he was not drunk that morning, in spite of the blood test results shown to the jury.
I was driving the car. I hit them, he said, crying. I’m not going to accept responsibility for being intoxicated because I wasn’t. I know that hurts.
Deputy Marion County Prosecutor Denise Robinson said that while Bisard may be expressing remorse, it has not come with a complete acceptance of responsibility, noting that many suffering from alcohol addiction lie to themselves and others.
During the trial, she noted, Bisard blamed brake and steering failure for the collision.
Surbeck sentenced Bisard on three of the nine charges on which he was convicted. The remaining six charges were merged into the others as they were essentially the same or related to the same act.
He sentenced Bisard to 13 years on the charge of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.15 percent or greater, and ordered sentences of 1 1/2 years on the two charges of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated causing serious bodily injury.
He ordered the sentences to be served consecutively for a total of 16 years but ordered three years suspended and to be served on probation. Indiana inmates are given credit for good behavior, potentially cutting their sentences in half.