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A Racine man was charged Thursday after he crashed into and killed a City of Racine employee with his car on Washington Avenue at Oregon Street.Benjamin Bell, 20, was charged by the Racine County District Attorney’s Office with homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle and first degree recklessly endangering safety. If convicted of the crimes, he faces up to 22 years six months in prison and/or fined up to $50,000.Mark Gates, who worked for the City’s Public Works solid waste department, died Wednesday afternoon after he was struck by a speeding vehicle Bell was driving. Gates was collecting recyclables at the time of the crash, said City of Racine Mayor John Dickert.According to the criminal complaint, Racine Police responded to a report of a car crash where the person was trapped inside the car in the 4400 block of Washington Avenue. When officers arrived, they found Bell trapped inside a silver Mustang. He crashed the car into the back of a Racine Department of Public Works garbage truck. Pinned between the car and the back of the garbage truck, Gates was taken by a Flight for Life helicopter to Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee. He died at 3:12 p.m., the complaint reads. Officers noted that the car smelled of marijuana. A witness told police that Bell was seen speeding at 60 mph about two blocks away on Washington at Lathrop avenues. Two other witnesses said Bell was driving the car erratically, weaving in and out of traffic at about 40 to 45 mph. But a passenger in the car believed that Bell wasn’t going more than five mph over the speed limit. Officers are still investigating the crash, which could result in more charges, according to the criminal complaint.
Bell, who was in court on Thursday, is being held on a $100,000 cash bond. A preliminary hearing has been set for 9 a.m. Dec. 21 in front of Racine County Court Commissioner John Bjelajac.
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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.
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