Ann Arbor police report reveals details surrounding Zavier Simpson crash

Officers say Simpson gave fake name, lied about driving crashed vehicle

Zavier Simpson #3 of the Michigan Wolverines looks on during the second half of a college basketball game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Crisler Arena on February 04, 2020 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Aaron J. Thornton, 2020 Aaron J. Thornton)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – On Wednesday, Local 4 received the police report from Ann Arbor police regarding the circumstances surrounding the Zavier Simpson crash.

Local 4 submitted a FOIA request to the Ann Arbor Police Department on Feb. 10. The request was completed by police Tuesday evening and brought to the newsroom Wednesday morning by one of our reporters.

Crash scene

Two Ann Arbor police officers, Officer Jeffrey Shafer and Officer Jordan Gawronski, were patrolling the area at 3:03 a.m. Jan. 26 when they noticed a crash scene on westbound Hill Street just west of South Forest Avenue.

Police said a black 2011 Toyota RAV4 had crashed into a utility police and a bike lane street sign. According to Google Maps, this appears to be the location:

Police said the RAV4 had run off the roadway to the right and sustained “disabling damage."

Simpson gives fake name, denies being driver, officers say

Shafer said he and Gawronski saw three people standing around the RAV4 when they approached the crash scene, but nobody was inside the SUV. The officers said they got out and approached the group, and a woman and a man told them they had been walking by when they noticed the crash scene. They said they didn’t know what had happened or who was driving, according to authorities.

READ: Zavier Simpson suspended for Michigan basketball’s game at Nebraska for violating team rules

The third person, later identified as Simpson, told police he had been walking past and noticed his friend’s vehicle was involved in a crash, so he stopped to see what had happened, officials said. Simpson said the friend in question was Evan Manuel, later identified as the son of University of Michigan Athletic Director Warde Manuel.

Simpson, 22, told police he didn’t see Evan Manuel with the vehicle.

When officers asked Simpson for his name, he told them it was “Jeff Jackson Simpson,” according to Shafer.

Police said they quickly recognized Simpson as the starting point guard for the U of M basketball team.

While Shafer was inside his patrol vehicle looking into the RAV4′s information, he noticed Simpson stumble a couple of times as he was walking around outside the vehicle, according to the police report.

Shafer said he told Gawronski what he’d seen, but Gawronski said he didn’t smell intoxicants on Simpson’s breath.

Police asked Simpson why he lied about his name and he said he “just did not want to be involved,” according to the police report.

He told officers he had been walking home down South Forest Avenue, and when he turned onto Hill Street, he saw Evan Manuel’s car, recognizing it by the distinctive University of Connecticut sticker on the back window, police records show.

Simpson told officers he had approached the RAV4 to see if everyone was OK, but there was nobody inside, Shafer said. He told them he was unsure who had been driving because Evan Manuel would lend the RAV4 to several different athletes, according to authorities.

Gawronski said Simpson told officers he had been in the SUV earlier in the day, but not at the time of the crash.

Gawronski looked at the driver’s seat of the RAV4 and noticed that it was set in a position that would accommodate someone much smaller than Simpson, according to the police report. Gawronski said he told Simpson he didn’t believe he had been driving because the seat was moved up so far.

Simpson gave Evan Manuel’s address to officers. When they walked away, he began calling several people, but wouldn’t say who he was calling, Shafer said.

Shafer said he saw Simpson going into the RAV4 as if he was looking for property, but he wasn’t seen physically removing anything.

Police speak with Evan Manuel

Shafer and Gawronski went to the address Simpson gave for Evan Manuel and knocked on his apartment door, officials said.

Evan Manuel, 21, answered and stepped into the hallway, police said. He told officers his roommate had told him that someone wrecked his car, according to the police report.

Evan Manuel said his roommate was awake in the living room when he had noticed a tow truck hauling his car pull into the apartment lot. It also dropped off Simpson, police said.

When officers asked Evan Manuel who had been driving his RAV4, he said he didn’t know, according to authorities. He told officers he had been out with his girlfriend and several friends when he decided to leave, but he couldn’t remember which friend he had given his keys to, officials said.

Officers said they called Chrislan Manuel, the registered owner of the RAV4. She told police she was aware of the crash because Evan Manuel, her son, had called earlier in the night, the police report says.

Chrislan Manuel told police she had asked her son who was driving the car and he told her it was Simpson, police said.

Simpson issued traffic violation

After Chrislan Manuel told them Simpson had been driving at the time of the crash, police contacted Simpson to talk more about his involvement.

During a brief phone conversation on Feb. 4, Simpson admitted that he had been driving the RAV4 at the time of the crash, according to Officer Scott Zeleny, to whom the crash case was assigned.

Simpson agreed to meet with Zeleny to update the crash report. He said he had lost control of the RAV4 because of slippery road conditions, according to police. He said a patch of ice on the road caused him to go off the road and crash into the wooden utility pole, the crash report says.

Simpson said there were no other passengers in the SUV at the time of the crash, officials said.

Zeleny completed the crash report and issued Simpson a citation for violating the basic speed law, police said.

About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.