A man who was involved in a minor car crash Tuesday night on State Route 80 in Benson is dead after being struck by an alleged drunk driver while walking from the crash scene to exchange insurance information.
Stephen Arthur Griswold of Benson was airlifted to Banner University Medical Center in Tucson with major head injuries but later died. He was 56.
The driver who struck Griswold is James Arthur Snyder, age 74, also of the Benson area. Snyder was initially booked into the Cochise County jail on suspicion of aggravated assault based the fact Griswold was breathing when emergency responders arrived at the scene. He is now charged with second degree murder, manslaughter, and DUI with more than a .15 blood alcohol concentration.
Court records show Officer Thomas Edsall of the Benson Police Department filed a probable cause statement Tuesday evening in support of the aggravated assault charge, noting multiple witnesses saw Snyder’s Mini Cooper strike Griswold.
Edsall’s report also documents the fact Griswold and another driver had been involved in a minor collision near the intersection of Patagonia Street and SR80 (also known as Fourth Street or Benson’s main street). Both men then began to cross SR80 on foot to an area just west of the intersection where they could easily and safely exchange information.
They had crossed three of the four lanes of traffic -with the other driver walking in front- when Griswold was struck by Snyder’s car. The driver of a car about 50 feet behind Snyder traveling in the same direction told Edsall he saw a pedestrian but was momentarily blinded by sun glare.
The witness described sensing “an explosion” which he initially thought was someone throwing something at the Mini Cooper but when his wife said a pedestrian had been hit he realized it was likely the windshield glass cracking.
Another witness, this one driving in the opposite direction of Snyder’s car, told the officer it appeared Griswold was trying to get across the highway quickly and may have jumped in an effort to get out of the way.
When Griswold was hit by the car, he went up in the air with his back hitting the windshield, the witness said. Griswold then fell to the roadway where emergency personnel found him with obvious head injuries.
Court records show all witnesses said Snyder appeared to be driving within the posted speed limit. However, DPS Trooper Tim Wiedemann noticed the smell of alcohol when conducting Snyder’s field sobriety tests at the scene.
In addition, the trooper reported Snyder’s preliminary breath test recorded a .154 blood alcohol concentration. Snyder was transported to the Benson Police Department where a blood draw was conducted, the results of which will be available in future court documents.
At the police station, Snyder was given a Miranda Warning before consenting to an interview after the crash. Court records show Snyder told Benson PD Det. Brian Williams he was traveling about 20 mph on SR80 when he suddenly had trouble seeing due to the sun.
“James advised he did not see the pedestrians until the last minute,” Edsall noted in the probable cause statement. “James advised he was coming from the Eagles Club, where he had two beers over approximately two hours” and had been drinking up until he left.
Edsall added that Snyder told the detective he did not feel the effects of alcohol at the time of the crash nor does he make it a habit to drive drunk.
When it was later learned that Griswold succumbed to his injuries, Cochise County Attorney Brian McIntyre signed a criminal complaint charging Snyder with second degree murder, manslaughter, and DUI. Snyder is being held in the Cochise County jail in lieu of $25,000 bond.
Snyder appeared by video Friday morning from the jail for an initial appearance on the new charges. He will be back in court soon for either an Early Resolution Court hearing to work out a plea agreement or a Preliminary Hearing for moving the case to the Cochise County Superior Court.