A minister and former college professor has agreed to plead guilty to driving drunk while on the wrong side of a Brooklyn Park highway and killing a motorist in a head-on crash as she traveled to her job as a Minneapolis 911 dispatcher.
Richard J.M. Shaka, 73, of Blaine, agreed Tuesday in Hennepin County District Court to admit to one of three counts of criminal vehicular homicide, namely that he was grossly negligent when he caused the nighttime collision on Feb. 17, 2018, with Jenna L. Bixby, 30, on Hwy. 252.
Two other counts of criminal vehicular homicide, including one alleging that he was drunk at the time, will be dismissed ahead of sentencing on May 14. Even with those alcohol-related counts being dropped, Shaka still admitted to being drunk, said county attorney spokesman Chuck Laszewski.
Shaka is making what is called a "straight plea," meaning the prosecution and defense will make their case before Judge Kathryn Quaintance for what the sentence should be.
The County Attorney's Office said Wednesday that it will seek a four-year term with the first two-thirds served in prison and the balance on supervised release.
Emergency personnel who tended to Shaka at the scene disclosed that he "had an overwhelming odor [of alcohol] … emanating from him as he was carried to an ambulance" that night, according to the criminal complaint.
Tests revealed that Shaka's blood alcohol content soon after the wreck was 0.168 percent, more than twice the legal limit for driving in Minnesota.
Bixby's husband, Daniel Bixby, was listening to the emergency dispatch audio that first reported the crash and could hear an officer on the scene report that his wife was "not breathing, unresponsive."
Two hours later, State Patrol troopers went to Bixby's home to deliver the grim news.
Jenna Bixby, of Nowthen in northern Anoka County, had been a Minneapolis dispatcher for roughly 3 ½ years. Mayor Jacob Frey and emergency communications director Heather Hunt both released statements of condolence and also praised Bixby for her role in protecting the public.
Shaka was driving his SUV north on southbound Hwy. 252 just north of Brookdale Drive when he hit Bixby's car, according authorities.
Shaka taught at North Central University in Minneapolis in the Bible and Theology Department from 1996 until he retired in 2011. He founded All Nations Christian Assembly in northeast Minneapolis and was a senior pastor there for more than 17 years, as was his wife.
Shaka also founded a Twin Cities nonprofit that builds orphanages and youth centers in his native Sierra Leone.