Milwaukee pastor killed, reckless driver pleads guilty

A Milwaukee man pleaded guilty Friday, Feb. 24 to homicide by use of a vehicle after a pastor was killed in a reckless driving crash last year.

Prosecutors said Jose Silva, 23, was behind the wheel of a car that ran a red light at 10th and Wells – crashing into the pastor's car.

Police responded to the crash scene around 9:15 a.m. on Oct. 12, 2022. Six total cars were involved – one driven by Silva, one driven by the pastor and four that were parked.

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At the scene, a criminal complaint states, Silva told police that he had jury duty at the Milwaukee County Courthouse and was hurrying to get there. He claimed he thought he entered the intersection with a yellow traffic signal and was going close to the speed limit.

Silva's car hit the pastor's in the intersection, prosecutors said. The pastor, identified as 40-year-old Aaron Strong, was taken to the hospital with severe injuries. He died shortly after getting there. An autopsy found Strong died of multiple blunt force injuries sustained as the driver of the car that was hit.

Aaron Strong; Jose Silva; fatal crash near 10th and Wells

Per the complaint, surveillance from Marquette University showed Silva's car speeding east on Wells Street at 21st Street prior to the crash. The car was seen driving eastbound in the westbound lanes, passing another car. The video also allegedly showed the car running a red light at 12th and Wells, also while driving the wrong way. The car ran the red light at 11th Street as well, prosecutors said.

Finally, the complaint states, the surveillance showed the car speeding as it crossed over Interstate 43 before entering the intersection at 10th and Wells, colliding with Strong's car. The complaint states traffic on 10th Street was moving "consistent with the defendant having a red light."

10th and Wells fatal crash scene

Data from the airbag control module in Silva's car showed he was driving roughly 70 mph seconds before impact. The brakes were not applied until two seconds before impact and the car didn't slow until a half-second before impact, per the complaint. When the airbags deployed, the car was going 56 mph.

The speed limit on Wells is 30 mph; the complaint states signs were "clearly posted" between 16th and 10th streets, where Silva's car was seen traveling.

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Strong was the lead pastor at Milwaukee's Grace Lutheran Church.

Silva is scheduled to be sentenced on April 20.