Alleged DUI driver faces misdemeanor charges after pedestrian killed in crash

Accused DUI driver released on misdemeanor charges after fatal pedestrian crash

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Ronnie Butler had just left a funeral repast where he later told police he consumed two large beers and two shots of alcohol.

His drive through the Cherokee neighborhood near I-240 came to a violent end Saturday evening when police records say his black GMC Sierra pickup truck hit 56-year-old Melvin Welch.

Welch was trying to walk across Prescott Road, a busy five-lane street flanked by gas stations and industrial lots.

The force of the impact sent Welch airborne before he landed on the windshield and hood of Butler’s truck, according to the crash report obtained by WMC Action News 5.

As Butler brought his truck to a stop, Welch fell into the middle lane of traffic where a fire department paramedic ultimately pronounced him dead.

While other suspected DUI drivers involved in deadly crashes with pedestrians or bicyclists have been arrested on vehicular homicide charges, Butler was charged with misdemeanor counts of DUI and public intoxication and released from jail the following day on a $2,500 bond.

A Memphis Police spokesperson did not respond to questions about how the charging decision was made.

The Shelby County District Attorney’s Office could not comment on an open case, but charges are frequently upgraded or downgraded by a grand jury as more evidence emerges.

One key piece of evidence will be the results of Butler’s blood alcohol test. Officers obtained a warrant to draw a sample of Butler’s blood when he was brought to the department’s traffic office that night.

An arrest affidavit notes traffic officers also administered a portion of a field sobriety test. Butler passed the horizontal gaze test but could not perform the “walk and turn” exercise because of health conditions.

Welch’s death was one of two pedestrian fatalities that weekend, including a man killed while changing a tire on the side of North Highland.

The fatalities only add to a rising number of deadly crashes involving pedestrians. Shelby County is already seeing its deadliest year in more than a decade, recording 42 pedestrian deaths as of early October.

A lack of crosswalks and pedestrian signals is often cited as a contributing factor.

The crash report notes Welch was crossing 100 north of Cherokee Boulevard, a section of road that includes a driveway to a Marathon Gas Station but does not have any marked crosswalks.

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