Off-duty Warren firefighter charged in teen’s death

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Mount Clemens — Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith has charged an off-duty Warren firefighter with murder in connection with a September car crash that killed a 17-year-old Sterling Heights girl.

Tad Alan Dennis, 43, of Sterling Heights was arraigned Tuesday in 41-A District Court on charges of second-degree murder and operating a vehicle while intoxicated, leading to death.

Bond was set at $500,000 cash with the condition that Dennis must not drink or drive.

The crash occurred about 8:40 p.m. Sept. 11, Smith said in a press conference Tuesday.

Dennis, a firefighter with 15 years on the job, crossed a lane line in a residential Sterling Heights neighborhood, where he allegedly struck a vehicle driven by Diana Pozderca.

Diana Pozderca

When police took Dennis’ blood at a local hospital hours afterward, he registered twice the legal alcohol limit of .08, Smith said.

After an extensive investigation, during which unsuccessful attempts were made to retrieve “black box” data from the vehicle manufacturer and its software developer, officials determined Dennis was traveling at twice the 35 mph speed limit, Smith said.

Investigators dusted off a method Smith called “old school”: accident reconstruction. With the assistance of former Michigan State Trooper Tim Brown, investigators determined the car was speeding, Smith said.

There were no skid marks on the road where the crash took place, said Smith, indicating the vehicle did not slow down.

With Thanksgiving Eve on Wednesday — traditionally considered the biggest bar night of the year in America — and in the midst of the holiday season, Smith urged drivers to be cautious on the roads and to avoid drinking and driving.

“We’ve had way too many deadly drunk driving crashes in Macomb County lately,” Smith said. “Don’t put my family, your family or anyone’s family at risk.”

Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith, left, and Sterling Heights Police Lt. Dave Smith discuss a Warren firefighter who was charged with murder for a September car crash that killed a 17-year-old Sterling Heights girl.

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts said Dennis is on unpaid leave and that the city’s human resources department has requested charging documents from the county prosecutor’s office. Once those come in, a union representative and the employee will discuss the facts, then the city will reach a decision on Dennis’ future with the city.

“I can’t say he will be terminated,” Fouts said. “It is likely, once we hear all the facts, but we have to give him due process.”

Detroit News Staff Writer Candice Williams contributed.