MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Pastor Richard John Morie Shaka, 73, has been given the maximum sentence in a wrong-way, drunk-driving crash that killed 30-year-old emergency dispatcher Jenna Bixby in 2018.
Shaka had been charged with three felony charges of criminal vehicular homicide in connection to the crash on February 17, 2018. On Tuesday, he was sentenced to 48 months in prison in connection with the crash.
According to the criminal complaint, officers were dispatched at 8:03 p.m. to the report of a fatal crash on the southbound lanes of Highway 252 near Brookdale Boulevard in Brooklyn Park.
Upon arrival, officers found two vehicles with extensive front-end damage. Bixby, from Nowthen, was deceased when officers arrived. The Minneapolis Emergency Communications Center 911 emergency dispatcher was found pinned inside the damaged vehicle.
Shaka was taken from the scene in an ambulance, where emergency responders noticed an overwhelming odor of alcohol emanating from him, according to the complaint. After a search warrant was obtained for a sample of his blood, it was collected and it was determined he had an ethyl alcohol concentration of .168. Shaka now uses a wheelchair due to the injuries he suffered in the crash.
Investigators reviewed surveillance footage from a traffic camera near the area. It allegedly showed Shaka’s vehicle traveling north on the southbound lanes of traffic before the crash.
Bixby’s life was defined by her service — as a 911 dispatcher and beyond. Bixby’s mother, husband and sister stood together outside a courtroom one last time for Shaka’s sentencing.
“She helped homeless people, rescued animals. She was a very caring person,” said Paulette Orlicki, Bixby’s mother.
Shaka is known for his ministry in north Minneapolis, and his orphanages in his native Sierra Leone.
“I’ve walked with sick people. I’ve always been in a position to help, not to destroy,” Shaka said. “This is the darkest moment in my life at this age.”
He begged the judge for mercy, explaining that after the death of his wife he struggled with depression and anxiety.
“The accident was my fault, no excuses for what I did, and I’m sorry. Really, very, very sorry,” Shaka said.
Bixby’s family stood together, holding on to the shoe she wore the day she died.
“The issue here is [Shaka’s] choice on February 17 to get in a car with a blood alcohol limit of .06,” said Deann Orlicki, Bixby’s sister. “Justice will never be served for my sister. It’s never right, but I’m glad we got what we did.”
They hope no one else will have to stand in their shoes.
“Don’t drink and drive, period. Even if you have one, you have Uber, you have Lyft, taxi cabs, there are so many options out there,” said Bixby’s husband, Dan Bixby.
Shaka’s sentencing includes 36 months to serve. He was taken into custody following the sentencing.