In his first public statement since he ran over and killed a 16-year-old girl near Harding High School last summer, Carlos Viveros-Colorado on Tuesday testified that as he tried to stop his sport-utility vehicle, his leg went numb and his foot "fell" on the accelerator.
"I tried to brake but I could not and my foot landed again on the accelerator, and the car accelerated and I went into a panic," the 51-year-old St. Paul man said through an interpreter.
He said the accident, in which his Ford Expedition ran over Clarisse Grime, "happened in seconds, and I don't know what happened."
Viveros-Colorado is on trial for criminal vehicular homicide in Grime's death and criminal vehicular operation for injuring her boyfriend, Eduardo Vazquez-Torres, 17.
The SUV jumped a curb, ran over a fire hydrant, jumped another curb and hit a sign before barreling down a grassy incline where the couple sat holding hands, waiting for a bus after summer school. Torres jumped out of the way, but Grime died at the scene.
Viveros-Colorado is an undocumented immigrant without a Minnesota driver's license and faces deportation if convicted.
Ramsey County District Judge John Van de North told attorneys the case revolves around the legal definition of gross negligence, particularly because it doesn't involve drugs or alcohol.
In the courtroom, Grime's weeping mother and grandmother looked away as photos flashed of the smashed SUV.
St. Paul Police Officer Douglas Wilson, a trained mechanic, testified that he found the brakes, steering and other key parts in working order.
Viveros-Colorado testified that he grew up in a tiny Mexican village and worked in the fields until moving to Minnesota in 2000.
Viveros-Colorado said he was driving home from work about 12:30 p.m. on July 5, intending to get his three grandchildren from a baby sitter. Heading east on E. 3rd Street, he said, he tried to brake but his leg went numb.
"My leg, my leg, the one that you use for the brake and accelerator," he said when his attorney, Alberto Miera, asked whether it was one or both legs. "I tried and tried ..."
Dr. Jessica Vadnais of West Side Community Health Services said that Viveros-Colorado had carpal tunnel, which he last complained about in June 2011.
"I never heard about numbness in the legs, just the fingers," she said.
Joy Powell • 651-925-5038