Kevin Roper, a 35-year-old Georgia resident who was driving the Walmart truck that struck comedian Tracy Morgan’s limousine early Saturday morning, was charged Saturday with death by auto and assault by auto in connection with the crash, acting Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey said in a statement.
Roper was expected to surrender to authorities, and he will be held in lieu of $50,000 bail.
ABC News reported that Roper was dozing behind the wheel, but police would not corroborate the report.
Morgan and two others remain in critical condition at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, N.J., after a vehicle the actor was traveling in was involved in a five-car accident on the New Jersey Turnpike. The accident killed James McNair, 63, a comedian better known by his stage name, Jimmy Mack, who often performed with Morgan.
Morgan was traveling back from a comedy performance at a casino in Dover, Del., when his SUV was struck from behind by a tractor trailer, causing a chain-reaction crash that involved five vehicles. A fourth victim of the crash was released from the hospital earlier Saturday, Carey said in the statement.
Walmart President and CEO Bill Simon responded to the news that the truck that allegedly caused the crash was owned and operated by the retail giant.
“This is a tragedy, and we are profoundly sorry that one of our trucks was involved. We are working quickly to understand what happened and are cooperating fully with law enforcement to aid their investigation,” Simon said in a statement.
“The facts are continuing to unfold,” he continued. “If it’s determined that our truck caused the accident, Walmart will take full responsibility. Safety is our absolute highest priority, but that is no comfort whatsoever to the families and friends who are suffering today. We offer them our deepest condolences. We can’t change what happened, but we will do what’s right for the family of the victim and the survivors in the days and weeks ahead.”
The New York Post’s Page Six cited an anonymous source that Morgan was “smiling” even as he wore a neck brace upon being airlifted from the scene of the accident.
But there was no further word of Morgan’s condition Saturday afternoon. Earlier in the day, Morgan’s representative issued a statement saying his family was with him. “Tracy remains in critical condition at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital,” the comedian’s spokesman, Lewis Kay, said in a statement. “He sustained these injuries in an accident that occurred early this morning as one of several passengers in a chauffeured SUV returning from a tour date in Delaware. His family is now with him and he is receiving excellent care. We don’t anticipate much of a change in his condition today but will provide a further update once more information becomes available.”
Over two decades in entertainment, Morgan has made a comic art form of cheerful—and occasionally petulant—incompetence.
After beginning his television career with a recurring role as a street hustler in the sitcom “Martin,” Morgan went on to “Saturday Night Live,” where over seven seasons he was known for playing a number of colorfully inept professionals. On “30 Rock,” Morgan’s semi-autobiographical Tracy Jordan, an actor on the series’ fictional “TGS” show, was portrayed as someone who had trouble with the most basic life tasks but lived in cheerful oblivion, thanks to the help of an entourage and “TGS” support staff.
Since the show ended its run in 2013, Morgan has been concentrating on comedy, embarking on the “Excuse My French” comedy tour last year and “Turn It Funny” this year, a barnstorming event he was in the middle of when Saturday’s crash occurred.
Morgan had been developing a new show with the creators of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” for cable network FXX, which in April ordered the project to series. The network did not immediately have a comment on the status of the show.