Dowagiac man found guilty of drunk driving

Published 11:42 am Thursday, September 23, 2021

CASSOPOLIS — Wednesday, a Dowagiac native with a .26 blood alcohol level, more than three times the legal limit, was found guilty of Operating While Intoxicated and Operating with an Invalid License by a jury of his peers in the Cass County 43rd Circuit Court.

Charges were brought against Defendant Gary Lee Keen after he drove a white Chevy Silverado to the Family Fare grocery story on Feb. 10, 2020. His jury trial began on Tuesday and concluded on Wednesday.

The jury of 12 heard the testimony of several witnesses including Nicole Carrizales, a manager at the Dowagiac Family Fare. Carrizales advised she assisted a man who was on crutches to his vehicle in the store parking lot and subsequently found Keen in the driver’s seat of that vehicle. Carrizales stated she saw Keen drinking while in the driver’s seat and called 911 as the vehicle began to leave the lot.

Testimony indicated that Dowagiac Police Officer Mackenzie Prins responded quickly, and Keen was stopped before he could enter the roadway. Prins testified that she smelled alcohol coming from Keen, he was slurring his words, and he was clearly intoxicated.

Keen himself made statements to the officers admitting that he was driving, that he was drunk, and that he knew he was committing a crime, according to the prosecution.

After refusing to take field sobriety tests, Keen was taken for a blood draw.  His sample was analyzed by the Michigan State Police Forensic Laboratory located in Lansing, MI. The results of this blood test showed that Mr. Keen’s blood-alcohol level was a 0.261, well beyond the 0.08 limit set by state law.

Assistant Prosecutor DeVante McCullom tried the case on behalf of the people, stating that the evidence against Keen was overwhelming and undeniable. This included the 911 call, Keen’s driving record, the laboratory report showing his blood alcohol level and body camera footage showing Keen’s statements and behaviors at the time he was pulled over.

“While every defendant has a right to their day in court, with a .261, this case going to trial was a head-scratcher,” Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz. “The defendant did himself no favors by presenting to the judge in great detail his blatant disregard for the law and the safety of law-abiding citizens.  Unfortunately, his decision making is questionable both when drunk and sober.”

Keen is scheduled for sentencing at 8:30 a.m.  Friday, Dec. 3. He faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Circuit Court Judge Mark Herman will preside.