Man charged in fatal NYE crash killed someone 5 years ago

A Milwaukee County court commissioner described the case of a 24-year-old Milwaukee man charged in connection with a crash that ended the life of a pedestrian on New Year's Eve. George Reel was convicted in connection with a fatal hit-and-run five years ago -- and he was sentenced to probation.

George Reel

George Reel, 24, in August pleaded not guilty two felony charges: second-degree recklessly endangering safety and fleeing/eluding an officer while in a vehicle. He posted $3,000 bond in the case, with "absolutely no driving" ordered as a condition of his release.

Arthur Baker

Prosecutors say he was behind the wheel of a GMC involved in a horrifying New Year's Eve crash at 60th and Burleigh in Milwaukee that ended the life of an innocent pedestrian, Arthur "AJ" Baker, 36.

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A child inside Reel's vehicle was hurt in the crash.

Reel was eager to present his side of the story during an initial court appearance Tuesday, Jan. 5.

George Reel

"Does anybody consider that I was running for my life with two men with guns?" he said

"Mr. Reel, I’m going to ask you not to say anything right now," Reel's attorney advised. "Everything here is being recorded. It is being live-streamed on YouTube."

Reel faces four felonies in Baker's death:

  • Second-degree reckless homicide (habitual criminality repeater)
  • Knowingly operating a vehicle while revoked, causing death (habitual criminality repeater)
  • Second-degree reckless injury (habitual criminality repeater)
  • Felony bail jumping (habitual criminality repeater)

A deeper dive into his criminal history shows Reel was convicted of hit-and-run involving death after pleading guilty in November 2016. He was sentenced to serve 18 months' probation along with 25 hours of community service.

NYE crash at 60th and Burleigh

According to a criminal complaint, investigators on scene Thursday, Dec. 31 determined the SUV Reel was driving was traveling southbound on 60th Street towards a red light. Witnesses indicated to police that the SUV was traveling 60 to 80 miles per hour. The posted speed limit in the area is just 30 miles per hour.

As the SUV entered the intersection, prosecutors say the SUV struck the driver's side mirror of one vehicle, another car's left rear fender and then continued through the red light and into the intersection. Reel's SUV then struck another car, which "spun around and landed on top" of Baker, who later died.

When detectives spoke with Reel, he "initially claimed his girlfriend had been driving the GMC truck and that they had fled another vehicle because a driver was shooting at them," the complaint said.

He later admitted he was driving the truck, not his girlfriend, according to prosecutors, and while he still claimed to be fleeing from another vehicle, he admitted that no shots had been fired. 

Reel also admitted to police that "he was not allowed to drive due to the status of his license."

The complaint added, Reel "admitted that he had smoked marijuana" for about six hours earlier that same day. Officers recovered three grams of marijuana from Reel when he was arrested.

Crash at 27th and Wells in August 2016

According to a criminal complaint, Reel was driving a white Infiniti that slammed into the side of a Honda. Pang Vang was sitting in the passenger seat of that Honda -- and died at the scene from injuries suffered in the wreck.

When officers arrived on the scene, they noticed a large group of people gathered at the corner. Reel and another man were there near the rear of the Infiniti and "then ran away from the scene." An officer noticed this, caught up to the men and "asked Reel if he had been driving the Infiniti." Reel denied being involved in the wreck and told the officer to leave him alone. The officer returned to the scene of the crash.

Crash at 27th and Wells in August 2016

A short time later, the complaint said Reel approached another officer at the scene of the wreck and said, "I wanna talk to you. It was me driving the white car. I was going to get my sister because it's her car and I got scared."

According to prosecutors, the collision was captured by a pole camera at the intersection. It shows the Honda "failed to stop for the red light and entered the intersection of 27th and Wells. The Infiniti, which was traveling east on Wells, and had a green light, entered the intersection and struck the passenger's side of the Honda."

Again, the passenger in the Honda, Pang Vang, died on the scene.

The driver of the Honda was hospitalized. He, too, was charged. was found guilty by a jury, convicted on one count of homicide by vehicle -- use of a controlled substance. Thanousorn Aranyaphong was sentenced to serve two years in prison and 36 months' extended supervision. Prosecutors say he had been issued a regular license but it was suspended in December 2015 for two years for failure to pay a fine.

Crash at 27th and Wells in August 2016

As for Reel, this time around, cash bond was set at $100,000 -- an amount prosecutors requested, while Reel's public defender asked for $25,000, noting Reel's "ties to the community." 

After hearing of Reel's repeat offenses, the court commissioner agreed the higher bail amount was needed.

"These are extremely aggravating circumstances," the court commissioner said.

A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Jan. 14.