GRANITE FALLS — A driver was tailgating a car before he tried to pass it in a roundabout near Granite Falls, causing a hit-and-run crash that killed a motorcyclist, according to police reports filed in court Monday.
Lars Syfert Kundu, 22, the driver of a Mazda Navajo, had been following an eastbound car “at a very close and unsafe distance” for about two minutes around 6 p.m. Sunday on Highway 92, according to witness reports recounted in court documents.
At a roundabout that leads to Quarry Road, the Mazda tried to pass. There is only one lane for eastbound cars. The Mazda drove around the car and over a raised median, to get into the roundabout before the car, according to reports from Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies.
In front of the car was a motorcyclist from Lake Stevens. The Mazda struck the motorcycle rider, who died at the scene, deputies wrote. Friends identified the deceased man as Chad William Keeler. He was 29.
Kundu’s SUV hit a fence and kept going, until the Mazda came to a stop — possibly because of a mechanical problem — about 1½ miles to the west, court papers say.
Sheriff’s deputies and state troopers were called to the scene. According to the Washington State Patrol, at one point the suspect attacked a witness with pepper spray. Court papers say a witness had chased the Mazda until it stopped in the 16700 block of 84th Street NE. Deputies detained the suspect. He reportedly told a deputy he’d smoked marijuana earlier in the day. Deputies obtained a judge’s permission to take a sample of Kundu’s blood. Toxicology tests are pending.
Deputies booked Kundu, of the Lake Stevens area, into jail for investigation of a hit-and-run resulting in a death and vehicular homicide.
At a bail hearing Monday, defense attorney Laura Shaver noted her client had no criminal record. He works full time, is attending school to become a veterinary assistant and volunteers at a local wildlife rehabilitation center, she said.
“Based on the little bit that I know,” Shaver said, “I do think that after a thorough investigation my client will ultimately be exonerated, and it will show he wasn’t the cause of the accident.”
Last year, Kundu reached a $375,000 settlement with Snohomish County for injuries he suffered in a deadly car crash in October 2011. Kundu, the son of a former Marysville School Board member, left track practice at Marysville Getchell High School in a Honda driven by his friend. The car slammed into a tree off a steep hill on 108th Street NE.
The crash killed the driver, Juan Mendoza. He was 16. Kundu was in the front passenger seat. He suffered head, spinal and other injuries. Experts hired by his family’s attorneys suggested the road was unsafe at the posted speed limit of 35 mph. The county denied fault in the settlement. Detectives investigated the crash and concluded the car was traveling between 60 mph and 76 mph before losing control. Investigators found the teens made previous trips down the hill to “get air,” or jump.
Attorneys for Kundu in 2014 said he sustained permanent brain injuries and likely would remain dependent on his parents for life.
On Monday afternoon Judge Anthony Howard set bail at $100,000.
One of Keeler’s friends, Zachary Cullum, 30, of Granite Falls, showed up to the courthouse in a white T-shirt. On it he’d scrawled a handwritten message in pen, begging the judge to hold the defendant in jail without bail and to deliver justice for Keeler.
“This was no accident,” Cullum told reporters outside the courtroom. “Lars, he didn’t have to leave. He did not have to leave.”
Cullum wasn’t there Sunday night, he said. He and Keeler were friends for about 15 years. They were so close, he said, Keeler called Cullum’s mother, “Mom.” On Sunday night, Cullum called his friend’s father to tell him the news. It didn’t seem possible, Cullum said. His eyes welled up with tears when he thought of all the people who were hurt by the death.
“It seems like we have a long road ahead of us,” he said.
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; email@example.com. Twitter: @snocaleb.