Ligon: ‘I do not remember the ride I took’

Gregory A. Ligon

DOVER — A 29-year-old Maryland man testified Wednesday that he blacked out after a futile attempt to brake his vehicle that then careened out of control and injured seven people during Delaware State University’s homecoming weekend in 2015.

Gregory A. Ligon, of Bowie, said he was “frustrated” and “surprised” that a Mercedes Benz safety function failed to shift the vehicle from reverse to park as he exited the vehicle while attempting to parallel park,

The DSU alumnus and former Hornets football player said he left the car to ask people behind him to move from the parking spot for their safety, but hadn’t yet spoken before noticing his vehicle beginning to drift backward at approximately 7:28 p.m. on Oct. 24, 2015.

From the stand, Mr. Ligon remembered that he went in leg first while trying to tap the brake, entered and hit his head on the steering wheel as the vehicle surged backward and over a curb.

Eventually, the vehicle hit two trees while traveling at least 120 feet in approximately four seconds, and hitting several DSU students along the way, according to earlier police testimony. Mr. Ligon testified that he regained consciousness after the car rammed into a tree and stopped, with a swarm of students heading his way.

“I do not remember the ride I took,” said Mr. Ligon, dressed in a business suit, coat and tie.

One female was seriously injured, and six others hurt. Mr. Ligon said he needed no medical attention.

“I was traumatized, I was shocked,” Mr. Ligon explained. “I didn’t know what to ask for.”

Mr. Ligon said he did not put the vehicle in park before losing control because he believed the safety feature was reliable based on at least two past experiences when it worked.

Charges include first-degree vehicular assault, second-degree vehicular assault (six counts), and DUI of alcohol. Mr. Ligon was re-indicted on June 6, 2016. He chose a bench trial before Kent County Superior Judge Robert Young after waiving his right to a jury.

75-minute testimony

Taking the witness stand on his own behalf for 75 minutes, Mr. Ligon said he drank alcohol before the incident, and acknowledged a .11 blood-alcohol content when tested by Dover Police roughly 2 1/2 hours after the crash. At one point, he referred to “the few drinks that I had” and agreed drinking and driving is wrong. He said he couldn’t remember his response to police questioning if he had drank alcohol before the crash.

In the short aftermath of the crash, Mr. Ligon said he “did great” on field tests administered by Dover Police, including counting down numbers and walking nine steps in a straight line before turning.

Mr. Ligon described the scene of what he estimated to be 20 to 25 police cars responding, a lot of flashing lights, an ambulance and “groups of people in the distance watching.” He eventually sat in a police car “quite a long time” before being transported to Dover’s police station, according to testimony.

Prosecution and defense both introduced a Mercedes Benz E350 manual, which Mr. Ligon said he had not read before the accident.

Mr. Ligon said he only learned of the safety feature when his clothing once got stuck in the door and he had to open it. The feature had put the vehicle into park at least twice before the day of the incident, he testified.

The manual described the safety feature in question, and offered many warnings that a driver is ultimately responsible for the actions of his or her car. Mr. Ligon testified he had owned the Mercedes Benz for “no more than two months.”

Also, the manual said function of the safety mechanism depends on the vehicle’s manufacture date.

Mr. Ligon testified to experiencing no vehicle difficulties when making an approximately 80-minute drive to DSU from his home on the day of the football game.

After the game, Mr. Ligon said he drove across campus to park the vehicle before it went out of control.

Driving in boots that were 4 1/2 inches at their widest point and 11 1/2 inches long, Mr. Ligon testified to never having problems manipulating the brake beforehand. The prosecution focused on the distances between the accelerator and gas pedal and their sizes.

The vehicle’s driver side door was sheared off during the incident, windows smashed and the back end damaged.

Closing arguments are scheduled for 9 a.m. today. The trial was previously postponed three times since March, and the case was earlier re-indicted.

Mr. Ligon graduated from DSU with a bachelor’s degree and works for his father on construction and electrical jobs.

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