There are more questions than answers almost a month after a high-speed chase ended in death near Churchill Downs. Many who knew and loved Justin Beeler, 29, say there’s only one reason he would have fired gunshots at the other car: he feared for his life. Beeler’s life ended shortly after noon July 9th when his blue Dodge Challenger hit a tree in the 3800 block of Southern Parkway.
The other driver, uninjured, emerged from a silver Chrysler 300 to be interviewed by police. “Witnesses on the scene say the driver of the silver car claimed to be an officer,” reported WHAS-TV. “Louisville Metro Police made it clear that the man is not an officer but did not elaborate on who he was.”
The two men crossed paths at Sissy’s Liquors, 3947 S. 5th Street, reportedly about 20 minutes prior to the crash. Surveillance video shows Beeler leaving the store and entering his car when the Chrysler parks behind him. “Both drivers get out of their cars, encounter each other with no noticeable exchange before returning to their vehicles, and drive off,” the C-J reported. According to WAVE-TV, “There may have been a brief exchange between the men, but not much else.”
Beeler’s family cites the video as evidence that he wasn’t an antagonist. “How can he be an aggressor if he gets in his car and drives away, and then 40 seconds later this guy … follows him?” Justin’s brother Brandon asked WDRB-TV, which reported that Justin “had never been in trouble with the law.”
It remains unclear what happened immediately thereafter, where Beeler’s Challenger got behind the Chrysler – and whether the men knew each other.
TV viewers, in various web forums, conveyed condolences, took sides, exchanged insults or withheld judgment pending additional information. Some lamented the decline of the neighborhood or of online civility. Others decried mobile gun violence (instead of calling police). But Brandon’s brother-in-law, amid his family’s grief, insisted, “Justin was a sensible man of respect and success. Not a guy who randomly shoots out of his window. If your life was threatened and you were being chased, you would do the same thing.”
Many challenged the news media and police. WDRB-TV reporter Ryan Cummings defensively wrote, “We only called it road rage, because that’s what LMPD called it.” Kim Dennison wrote, “The police are trying to cover up for their informant!” and Judy Sapp opined, “It is definitely a cover up or the other person’s name would have been released.” WAVE-TV viewers wrote that the Chrysler driver should have been charged for impersonating an officer. Another asked, “Why would they withhold the names for so long?”
Police said they will not identify the surviving driver because no charges have been filed. LMPD has referred the case to the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution.
We’re not in the business of withholding information – not without a clear and compelling reason. And especially not when a bereaved family wants and deserves answers. What’s more, the community has a right to know.
Accordingly, I have confirmed the identity of the surviving driver via his acquaintances’ recognition of him in surveillance video and the matching of his (handicapped) license plate number with two arrest reports.
He is Michael Dwayne Nevins, 43, of Hodgenville.
Last Nov. 13th at 1:40 a.m., LMPD cited him on Poplar Level Road at Grenade Avenue for trafficking in a controlled substance (meth) and possession of paraphernalia as well as traffic violations.
According to the arrest report, the officer observed Nevins “pass a vehicle, with no signal, in the emergency lane to exit Poplar Level Rd. ramp,” causing “a substantial risk of danger to the drivers around him.” Upon contact, the officer further “observed a white pill (Hydrocodone), a razor, several small Ziploc baggies … a pipe with one burnt end … several more baggies used to package and sell narcotics, packaged meth, burnt pipe and approx. 416 dollars.” Nevins also possessed several syringes and confessed he had used meth approximately three hours earlier, according to the citation.
On April 7th, Nevins was again arrested – again at 1:40 a.m. – for loitering in a parking lot at 4908 Popular Level Road, trafficking (meth), paraphernalia (including digital scales) and possession of a controlled substance without a prescription (Hydrocodone).
He has entered not guilty pleas in connection with the pending charges.