Attorney for suspected hit-and-run driver claims he was forced to drive through crowd

Brendan O'Neil is facing a felony charge after the incident outside of Wando's in June
Brendan O'Neil (source: Dane County Sheriff's Office)
Brendan O'Neil (source: Dane County Sheriff's Office)(WMTV)
Published: Jul. 31, 2020 at 8:11 AM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The man charged with felony hit-and-run outside of a downtown Madison bar is responding to the allegations claiming that he is the victim of “false rumors and bald-faced lies.”

Twenty-six year-old Brendan O’Neil’s attorney Christopher T. Van Wagner released a statement sharing O’Neil’s side of the story.

Van Wagner claims his client and three of his passengers in his truck were the victims of several crimes, including “false imprisonment, assault, battery, attempted auto theft, and riotous conduct.”

During the early morning hours on Sunday, June 21, O’Neil was seen driving his truck through a crowd of people on University Avenue in front of Wando’s. Madison Police said O’Neil hit the victim, 24-year-old Alize Carter, with his 2007 GMC Sierra K1500 pickup truck. The victim was walking with a crowd when she was hit by the truck.

Van Wagner said O’Neil was driving home after a night out with friends. He exited the parking ramp on Frances Street and began slowly making his way through the large crowd of people. Van Wagner says the crowd “surrounded his truck” and he was “forced to a full stop to avoid hitting anyone, and in less than a minute, things went from confusing to very dangerous.”

The statement says the crowd began rocking O’Neil’s truck, hitting it repeatedly, before some others climbed into the bed of the truck.

O’Neil claims that people began punching him through his open window and tried to pull him out of the truck. During the chaos, O’Neil says he saw someone about eight feet away with a gun in his waistband.

That’s when O’Neil hit the gas pedal. “He hoped the rioters would move, and that his truck would be out of the direct line of fire. He hit the gas a second time as people moved, obviously trying to get away from the gunman and the mob,” Van Wagner said in the statement.

O’Neil told Van Wagner because of the noise and chaos of people banging on his truck, he had no idea he hit someone. He claims he discovered there was still someone in the bed of his truck about a half block after the accident, and when he stopped to tell her to get out, he saw a car chasing him. He continued driving until he lost the car, sharing that he was scared of what would happen if he stopped.

In the statement, Van Wagner shared one of O’Neil’s passengers said that he might have hit a girl, but that “O’Neil had no opportunity to return safely to the scene and by the time he had escaped the car of rioters who gave chase, the ambulances had already arrived.”

Carter went to the hospital where she was treated for abrasions to parts of her body, a fractured hand and a concussion.

“He never meant (sic) for that to happen, and up until seeing the gun, he had done everything he could to not hit anyone,” Van Wagner said. “This talented young lady was the victim of an auto accident. She (like O’Neil) did not deserve what happened. O’Neil regrets that she was injured, and he hopes and prays for her complete recovery.”

Van Wagner claims O’Neil woke up to a voicemail from a police officer a few hours later and immediately returned the call, cooperating with police since adding that “O’Neil is essentially accused of one criminal omission, and that is his failure to notify police at his earliest opportunity that he had been involved in a collision with a pedestrian.”

O’Neil was originally arrested on a misdemeanor, but that charge was upgraded to felony hit and run causing injury earlier this week.

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