CLEVELAND — A driver accused of fatally hitting a state trooper along a Cleveland highway has been acquitted of vehicular homicide charges.
Jurors on Thursday also found 38-year-old Joshua Gaspar not guilty of charges including operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs in the Sept. 15 crash that killed Trooper Kenneth Velez. Gaspar was found guilty of misdemeanors, including falsification and tampering with records.
Prosecutors alleged Gaspar lied to get a driver’s license and took methadone shortly before driving.
The Columbia Station man’s attorney argued the crash was an accident. Defense attorney Jon Sinn said the methadone was prescribed for an addiction to painkillers Gaspar developed after injuring his back and didn’t affect his ability to drive.
Sinn said Thursday after court that Gaspar “will face the consequences of his actions.”
Reached by phone Thursday evening, Sinn said he and his client’s sympathy goes out to the Velez family.
“We are grateful the jury saw this tragedy for what it was,” he wrote in a text message. “A horrible accident. There are no winners today but hopefully this verdict will bring closure for both families.”
Audali J. Torres, a good friend of Velez, said the decision does not bring closure to the friends and family of Velez who are still devastated.
Torres said the only way closure might be achieved is if Gaspar truly gets his act together and does something positive for the community in Velez’s name.
“We aren’t happy, but it is what it is,” Torres said. “We lost a dear friend, father, son and family member. We just got to move forward and stay positive.”
Torres said the Velez family intends to keep the name of Velez alive and continue honoring him through various functions that will raise scholarship funds for area students.
At 7 a.m. Saturday, a 5K run in honor of Velez will kick off at Sacred Heart Chapel, 4301 Pearl Road. Anyone interested can register in person or online.
A dinner will be held Sept. 15 at St. Lad’s, 4221 Clinton Ave., to raise money for a scholarship fund. For more information, contact Torres on Facebook.