JoCo family mourns 19-year-old killed by suspected drunk driver

Benjamin Kleczka, 19, was killed when the car he was driving was rear-ended by a suspected drunk driver near Antioch Road and Shawnee Mission Parkway last Thursday. Photo via GoFundMe.

A 19-year-old man killed by a suspected drunk driver last week in Merriam had a strong religious faith and was “an inspiration and light” to many, his family says.

A fundraiser on GoFundMe is seeking to raise money for the family of Benjamin Kleczka, who died last week after the car he was driving was rear-ended at the intersection of Antioch Road and Shawnee Mission Parkway in Merriam.

A 24-year-old Grain Valley, Mo., man has been charged with first degree murder in Kleczka’s death.

‘He lived such a full, blessed life’

As of Monday, the GoFundMe in Kleczka’s honor had raised more than $9,800 towards a $20,000 goal.

The money, the fundraiser says, will go to help the family pay for funeral expenses.

“Benny had a strong relationship with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” the GoFundMe summary reads. “Through our human eyes, he was taken way too soon, but God knows best and took Benny home. He lived such a full, blessed life, and will always be loved by so many.”

Social media posts over the weekend indicate that Kleczka, who was taken to Overland Park Regional Medical Center after the crash early Thursday morning, was taken off life support on Saturday with his family gathered by his bedside.

“Benny had a larger than life presence and will be missed,” the GoFundMe reads.

The crash occurred early Thursday morning

The crash happened just after 1:30 a.m. near Antioch Road and Shawnee Mission Parkway.

According to recorded radio traffic that night, an officer spotted a dark-colored car, later identified as a black Ford Fusion, driving south in the 5400 block of Antioch Road at high speed.

A few moments later, the Ford Fusion struck Kleczka’s gray Honda Accord that was stopped on southbound Antioch at the intersection with Shawnee Mission Parkway, according to Merriam Police.

A female passenger who was in the Accord with Kleczka suffered minor injuries in the collision.

Fox 4 reports that Kleczka’s family identified that female passenger as Kleczka’s fiancée and said the two were coming home from a late-night movie when their vehicle was struck.

Uconn Xavier Coleman, 24, who was driving the Fusion, did not suffer any serious injuries.

Coleman is now charged with murder

Coleman was arrested at the scene Thursday morning and initially held on a lesser felony — DUI+ aggravated battery with great harm.

That was upgraded to first-degree murder Friday.

Coleman was arraigned in Johnson County District Court on Friday afternoon.

As of Monday, he remained in custody at the Johnson County Adult Detention center with a $500,000 bond, according to an online inmate search.

His next court appearance is scheduled for Wednesday, June 21, at 9 a.m.