Driver in fatal Puyallup crash involved in earlier accident, police say

An Olympia man charged with killing a pedestrian in a Puyallup crosswalk last week was taking five prescription medications and had been in an accident earlier that day, according to court records.

Joseph Schaffer, 64, pleaded not guilty Monday to vehicular homicide in the death of Christopher Kerns, 42. He was ordered jailed in lieu of $500,000.

Kerns was hit Thursday night in a crosswalk at River Road and North Meridian Street near the Ford dealership where he had worked for 14 months.

According to charging papers, when police arrived, an officer found Schaffer in the dealership’s bathroom, washing his face. Schaffer allegedly said he ran a red light and his brakes weren’t working.

He “stated he didn’t know what he had hit but it was something,” charging papers show.

Police suspect Schaffer was under the influence of drugs, because he couldn’t keep his head up, slurred his speech and was distracted.

A paramedic at the crash told police Schaffer had been involved in another car wreck earlier that day on Interstate 5.

According to the Washington State Patrol, Schaffer was in a two-vehicle accident about 90 minutes before the incident in Puyallup. The wreck happened on southbound I-5 near the main gate of Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Troopers responded to the crash, and both drivers were allowed to drive away.

Schaffer told police he was driving home and was arguing on his cellphone just before he struck Kerns with his 2002 Lexus, according to charging papers.

The car hit another vehicle in the intersection, then jumped a curb and hit a sign and four more vehicles.