Humboldt State University student pleaded guilty today to running
over and killing an Arcata man while driving drunk.
Robert Willard Bergeson III admitted to vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated in the death of Alan Gradwohl, 55. Gradwohl was struck and killed in an Arcata crosswalk about 8 p.m. on Sept. 4.
Bergeson, 24, faces a maximum of four years in state prison. He is scheduled for sentencing Feb. 22.
was driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.16 when he made a left
turn and his van hit Gradwohl, who was about 3 feet into the
crosswalk at 14th and H streets. Gradwohl, 55, was thrown onto the
hood of the van. He was screaming “Stop! Stop! Stop!”
according to a statement read today by Deputy District Attorney Brent
Kling. The van traveled a few more feet; Gradwohl fell off the hood
and was run over. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
choked back tears this morning while listening to the prosecutor read
a statement provided by the Arcata Police Department. Police say
Bergeson had been drinking with friends that day and had four
passengers in his van when it hit Gradwohl. One of the passengers
told police that people in the van were “being rowdy” and
Bergeson may have been looking right instead of left when he made the
later searched the van and found “a number of beer cans,”
Kling said. Passengers said they didn’t believe Bergeson was drinking
in the van.
Bergeson and his friends were reportedly on their way to have a drink at The Alibi when Gradwohl was struck.
exchange for the plea to vehicular manslaughter, the District
Attorney’s Office dismissed two counts of drunken driving involving
John Feeney said he accepted the plea because Bergeson has no prior
criminal record “and has certainly expressed remorse for his
of court, a tearful Bergeson declined comment. But his attorney,
Deputy Public Defender Heidi Holmquist, called the death “a real
tragedy” and indicated Bergeson is suffering.
is feeling it on his end,” Holmquist said.
is still enrolled full-time at HSU, a university spokesman confirmed.
At the time of his arrest he had a full beard. He is clean-shaven
now, and his dark hair is short. He was dressed this morning in
slacks, a sweater vest and a long-sleeved shirt. Two worried-looking
young women accompanied him to court.
Gradwohl had been back in Arcata for about a year after living elsewhere for many years. Friends have described him as a brilliant person with a gift for music. He was working as a sound engineer for a local band when he was killed.
Some of Gradwohl’s family members are expected to travel from out of the area to make statements at Bergeson’s sentencing.