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Originally published July 27, 2011 at 2:41 PM | Page modified July 27, 2011 at 11:01 PM

Witness to fatal crash: SUV driver pounded chest 'like a gorilla'

The driver of an SUV that collided with a car in Kirkland on Sunday, killing its driver, was charged Wednesday with vehicular homicide and reckless driving.

Seattle Times staff reporter

quotes This is just shocking, I hope he never gets out of prison. I must say that major... Read more
quotes "As troopers took Rexroat to jail he said, "I can't go to prison...." ... Read more
quotes wow, this story reminds me to swallow my pride next time I try and match my will... Read more

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After his SUV slammed into another man's car in Kirkland on Sunday afternoon, the driver got out and "pounded on his chest like a gorilla," according to a witness to the fatal crash.

Steven Lacey, the driver of the car, was killed instantly, according to Patricia Kaiser, of Kirkland, who witnessed the crash near Interstate 405. The driver of the SUV, identified by the State Patrol as Patrick Rexroat, was charged Wednesday with vehicular homicide while under the influence of alcohol and reckless driving.

If convicted, he faces about 3 ½ years in prison.

Although Rexroat, 56, of Snohomish, bailed out of jail on Monday, he was ordered rearrested on Wednesday and held in lieu of $1 million bail, a move that appeared to surprise Rexroat.

In charging Rexroat, Deputy Prosecutor Jennifer Miller cited Rexroat's "flagrant disregard for the value of human life, coupled with clear indications of impairment" as reasons why he should be booked again into jail.

A State Patrol lab test performed this week found that Rexroat had a blood-alcohol level of 0.29 percent, or more than three times the legal limit of 0.08 percent, after the crash, authorities said. An initial test indicated that the level was four times the legal limit.

Troopers said Rexroat may have been chasing another car southbound on I-405 in a possible case of road rage around 2 p.m. Sunday when his SUV careened off an exit ramp at Northeast 85th Street and he lost control, crossing the centerline of Northeast 85th and colliding with the BMW driven by Lacey.

Kaiser, who witnessed the crash, said in an interview Wednesday that she was just feet from the two cars when she saw Rexroat's SUV fly around a corner and slam into Lacey's BMW. The two cars briefly went airborne.

"I ran over to the BMW first because it was completely totaled," Kaiser said. "I took [the driver's] pulse, and he was dead."

Minutes later, Rexroat climbed from his vehicle and started wandering around, picking up parts of his SUV from the ground, she said.

"Eventually he came toward me. I told him don't come toward me," Kaiser recalled. "He just started pounding his chest like a gorilla. I was so upset. I knew the minute he got out of the car he was drunk. You could tell."

Kaiser said she told Rexroat that the man in the BMW was dead. She said he replied: "Dead?" before walking away.

Troopers noted that Rexroat's speech was slurred and he smelled of alcohol and was barely able to maintain his balance, according to the State Patrol. When one trooper asked him how much alcohol he had consumed before the crash, he said "way too much," Miller wrote in charges.

Rexroat was taken to Evergreen Hospital Medical Center to be evaluated. As troopers took Rexroat to jail he said, "I can't go to prison. Just can't do it. I'll kill somebody again," charging documents said. Rexroat followed up with the request that troopers "please shoot me right here" as he pointed at his forehead, the charges said.

Lacey had just left home on an errand to Costco, according to a family friend. The 43-year-old father of two worked for Google and used to work for Microsoft on its games, including Microsoft Flight Simulator, according to the biography posted on his blog, www.steve-lacey.com.

A native of England and a graduate of Imperial College in London, Lacey was also co-founder of SwitchGear Software, a startup.

Janet Lacey, the crash victim's mother, traveled to Seattle from England this week, and attended Wednesday's hearing. Afterward, she said that she would "love to be put in a room with [Rexroat]. He wouldn't be walking."

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg met with the Lacey family to discuss the charges.

"The tragic death of Steve Lacey was not an accident," Satterberg said in a news release. "It was the predictable result of aggressive driving under extreme intoxication."

Satterberg has long lobbied for harsher sentences for vehicular homicide. The standard sentence range for vehicular homicide is 31 to 41 months in prison, or about 2 ½ to 3 ½ years. A bill that would have increased the penalty to 78 to 102 months, or 6 ½ to 8 ½ years, for the first offense did not pass in the Legislature, Satterberg said.

A college fund for Lacey's children is being established at Chase Bank.

Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report, which includes information from Times archives.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com

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