A Cleveland man has been sentenced to more than 35 years in prison for crashing a stolen truck into a crowded Westlake bar and injuring more than a dozen people, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty announced Aug. 3.
On October 23, 2014, employees from an Avon Lake golf club observed Brandon Pawlak and Matthew Sowden, both 27, in the club’s garage. When employees approached the two, Pawlak drove off in a club-owned Ford F-250, and Sowden followed in his own van.
Avon Lake police pursued Pawlak and Sowden. Sowden was stopped and arrested in Avon, but Pawlak evaded officers and crossed into Westlake in Cuyahoga County, reaching speeds up to 80 miles per hour and nearly causing several collisions.
Westlake police on Detroit Road attempted to use stop sticks, but they failed to puncture the truck’s tires. Pawlak hit a curb, lost control of the truck and crashed into Dover Gardens Tavern, which was filled with patrons.
Two patrons were hit nearly head-on, causing severe lower body injuries. Two bartenders were pinned behind the bar and also sustained multiple lower body injuries. In total, 13 people were injured.
Pawlak was charged with more than 30 counts, including multiple counts of Aggravated Robbery and Aggravated Vehicular Assault.
On July 30, 2015, a jury found Pawlak guilty on all but one count each of Felonious Assault and one of Breaking and Entering. Today, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Deena Calabrese sentenced Pawlak to 35 years, 6 months in prison.
“Brandon Pawlak demonstrated a reckless disregard for human life in this case. It’s a miracle no one was killed,” said Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Gregory M. Paul, who represented the State of Ohio along with Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Andrea Isabella. “The victims still have a long road to recovery, and many will carry scars for the rest of their lives. Pawlak’s sentence is just for such brazen and dangerous actions.”
Also today, co-defendant Sowden pled guilty to one count each of Breaking and Entering, and Grand Theft of a Motor Vehicle. He will be sentenced on September 2.