Former San Jose City Council candidate and Bay Area Women’s March founder Jenny Higgins Bradanini has been charged with felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence after she fatally struck a pedestrian with her SUV in December.
Authorities say she was under the influence of a benzodiazepine, which came with a warning that users should not drive or operate heavy machinery because side effects include sedation, weakness, dizziness and unsteadiness.
At around 11:40am on Dec. 16, Higgins Bradanini was driving to a doctor’s appointment in Los Gatos when she hit 66-year-old Timothy Starkey on the 900 block of Blossom Hill Road in Los Gatos, according to police reports obtained by San Jose Inside.
Starkey was described by family and friends as generous, humble and larger than life.
Per an incident report appended to charging documents, a witness said Higgins Bradanini was “swerving and unable to maintain her lane both to the left and to the right.” The crash reportedly happened on the north shoulder of Blossom Hill Road, which had a five-foot bike lane separating the lane and shoulder.
Police say Higgins Bradanini seemed unable to recall why she veered out of her lane.
“Bradanini did not display any objective symptoms of alcohol intoxication, but was unable to clearly describe her actions just prior to the collision, had trouble focusing and articulating her thoughts or answering simple questions with slowed thinking, and apparent memory loss,” police wrote in a summary of the incident.
“I hit the car and was like oh my god, where is the guy, so l knew there was a guy there,” Higgins Bradanini reportedly told police. “Then I freaked out and these ladies called 911. I wanted to put something over him, I wanted to cover [Starkey] up and I was thinking please don’t die, please don’t die.”
Higgins Bradanini also told officers at the scene that she had taken a prescription drug prior to the collision and provided them with a blood sample. While the name of the medication was redacted in the report, it was noted that the prescription was a benzo, a Schedule IV controlled substance.
Immediately following the crash, police interviewed Higgins Bradanini at the Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Department building. Once in the interview room, officers report that she “spontaneously stated ‘I killed somebody.’”
She reportedly told cops that the events leading up to the crash were “blurry” to her, but she recalled seeing Starkey 30 to 40 feet before she struck him. She wondered whether she was in the process of taking off her jacket, but didn’t have a “clear recognition,” police state in their summary of the interview.
During an interview break, cops reportedly discussed evaluating Higgins Bradanini for a mental health hold “because she had mentioned to another officer about wanting to die.”
When asked if she was suicidal, Higgins Bradanini said “I just don’t want to be here. I killed somebody.” Police say she continued by asking, “How do I ever face his family? I took somebody’s life by accident, and I don’t know how you ever get past that.”
Based on speed calculations, officers determined that Higgins Bradanini was driving between 30 mph and 37 mph in the 35 mph zone.
The maximum sentence for vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence is six years in prison, according to a District Attorney’s office spokesperson.
Higgins Bradanini did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The South San Jose resident was running for Councilman Johnny Khamis’ open District 10 seat, but took third in the March 3 primary election behind Brigade-founder Matt Mahan and businesswoman Helen Wang.