6 years in prison for driver who struck pedestrian and said 'he drives better when he's been drinking'

Desmond Ellis

MILWAUKEE -- A Milwaukee man with a suspended license who struck a pedestrian near 11th Street and Atkinson Avenue on Aug. 19 was sentenced to prison Thursday, Jan. 23. Prosecutors said he told investigators "he drives better when he's been drinking." The victim, a 70-year-old man, died from his injuries at the hospital.

Desmond Ellis, 49, pleaded guilty in December to one count of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle. In court on Thursday, Ellis was sentenced to serve six years in prison, and four years' extended supervision. He received 158 days' credit for time served. Two other charges were dismissed as a result of the plea deal.

According to the criminal complaint, when police arrived on the scene, a man, later identified as Ellis, approached officers and said he was the driver of a vehicle that struck a pedestrian -- Charles Buser. Officers observed Ellis' vehicle had a shattered windshield and major damage to the passenger side area. There was an unopened can of beer on the floor, the complaint said. There was a cane in the roadway.

Charles Buser

The victim was found unconscious in the street. At the hospital, it was learned the victim suffered a broken leg, fractured wrist, and brain hemorrhage. At the time of the writing of the criminal complaint, the victim was unconscious and on a ventilator -- in critical condition. Martyne Dirden, relative of the victim, said her great "Uncle Chi Chi" died Sept. 5 from his injuries.

The complaint said while speaking with Ellis at the scene, officers noted a strong odor of alcohol on his breath, and he was having a hard time maintaining his balance. Field sobriety testing was attempted, and Ellis told police he had been drinking.

Ellis was taken to the hospital for a blood draw, with a result of .214. At the hospital, the complaint said Ellis told staff "he was drunk driving," and "he drives better when he's been drinking." He claimed the crash wasn't his fault, indicating "the guy just walked out in front of him."

Pedestrian struck near near 11th and Atkinson

According to the complaint, surveillance cameras captured the victim walking with his cane in the crosswalk when he was struck.

Ellis had a suspended license at the time, the complaint said, and had two prior convictions for operating after suspension, the most recent occurring in December 2017.