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Lacey tavern owner jailed, suspected of killing man while driving drunk

KOMO News photo.

LACEY, Wash. - The owner of a Lacey tavern is in jail on high bail suspected of driving drunk and killing a man Wednesday.

The suspect was in court Thursday. Both men are from Tenino.

66-year-old Gene McLean was killed when he was hit head-on. The Thurston county Sheriff's Office says Keith Milligan is believed to have been driving under the influence when he drove northbound on McDuff Road. The Sheriff's Office says Milligan crossed over the center line and hit McLean head-on.

McLean's friend and co-worker Josh Hyatt was in court and said, "He was one of the greatest guys. He always walked in with a smile on his face. He was always an upbeat, ready to go get it kind of guy."

McLean's friend, Roy Kissner, said, "Gene was on his way home from work to celebrate having received his first social security check. He never got a chance to do that."

Friends of suspect driver Milligan came to the scene to see for themselves in disbelief. Maureen Brown said of Milligan, "Big-hearted, civic minded community service man. I can't really say anything bad about him and I know his heart is probably breaking for the other family."

Milligan's friend Sonny Harmon said, "He's a nice guy. He's always, always helping people."

Court documents say Milligan owns the Viking Tavern 20 miles north in Lacey and admitted having a couple of beers five hours earlier. But deputies on the scene said he was slurring his words and they could smell alcohol. They report he also admitted to smoking a 'bowl' of marijuana to help with a medical condition.

The judge ordered Milligan held on $100,000 bail. If he makes bail, the judge ordered him to stay away from all taverns, including the one he owns.

"I hope everything works out," Harmon said. "God bless him and God bless the gentleman that lost his life."

Brown, who also lives in Tenino, said, "It's tough for everyone. The community, we've lost somebody. And there's another man that's facing some pretty heavy consequences for an accident."

McLean's son, Taylor, learned about this overseas. He is stationed with the Air Force in Germany. The coroner said the Red Cross and military are flying him home to help make arrangements for his father.

"I'm retired military, so my sympathy goes out to their family, of course," Harmon said.

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