State Patrol: Hennepin sheriff driving over 120 mph while drunk in crash

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Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson was drunk, driving at more than 126 miles per hour and did not have his seat belt on last month when he crashed his official SUV on Interstate 94 near Alexandria, according to the investigative file released Thursday by the State Patrol.

Authorities also released Douglas County Sheriff's Office squad video from the crash scene, where Hutchinson initially told responding law enforcement and witnesses that someone else was driving.

Hutchinson was sentenced Dec. 20 to two years' probation on a misdemeanor drunken driving charge after he crashed his SUV around 2:30 a.m. on Dec. 8. The details released Thursday were met by growing calls for Hutchinson's resignation.

Gov. Tim Walz said Thursday that while he is grateful Hutchinson or anyone else wasn't killed, his actions were "a breach of trust" and that he should step down.

"I'm not a resident of Hennepin County, and I'm speaking as an individual on this, but I think most Minnesotans know and most Minnesotans understand that there's consequences for decisions like that, I just wish that he gets the help that he needs to move on with his life," he said in response to news media questioning.

Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said that as a Hennepin County constituent, "I would say it is time for him to resign."

Douglas County Attorney Chad Larson could not immediately be reached for comment, but he accepted Hutchinson's guilty plea to fourth-degree drunken driving on Dec. 16, four days before an analysis of the vehicle revealed that he was driving well over 100 miles per hour, topping out at 126.2 before he crashed.

Under Minnesota law, drivers caught at more than 100 mph are subject to a six-month license revocation.

The sheriff's blood alcohol content was more than 0.13% roughly three hours after the crash. At one point moments after the wreck he was reaching for his holster that held a loaded handgun, according to newly released patrol and Sheriff's Office reports.

In a statement Thursday, Col. Matt Langer said:

"There is no minimizing or defending the driving conduct and decisions involved in this situation. Mr. Hutchinson's decision[s] to drive impaired, at speeds in excess of 120 miles per hour while not wearing a seat belt are the exact opposite of what we know helps to keep people safe on our roads."

The case file, which included meticulous recovery of the vehicle's data, and Langer's statement marked the first time Hutchinson's speed was revealed, nearly six weeks after the crash.

Hutchinson and his attorney, Fred Bruno, declined to comment to the Star Tribune about the latest revelations.

Still not released is any potential video from body cameras that might have been worn by sheriff's deputies during their response during the crash or afterward.

State law requires that the subject, in this case Hutchinson, give consent to the release of body-cam video. The Sheriff's Office said the sheriff has yet to consent. The patrol said its body-worn camera rollout is in its early stages, and the first encounter with Hutchinson by a trooper — who was not equipped with a body camera — didn't occur until the sheriff was at the hospital, said state Department of Public Safety spokesman Bruce Gordon.

Dashcam video from the first deputy arriving at the scene shows Hutchinson's mangled SUV in the median, with the sheriff down on his side on the shoulder and a 911 caller crouched next to him. Investigators said they saw tire tracks in the snow for half a mile leading up to the crash site.

Hutchinson appeared unsteady as he was helped to his feet. No audio can be heard, but he stumbled as he spoke with the deputy, who then appeared to take his firearm. Hutchinson was then walked over to the squad.

The video from the backseat of a Douglas County squad showed Hutchinson getting in while breathing heavily. Asked whether he's hurt, he said "No sir."

When Deputy Dylan Kriese returned to the squad and asked Hutchinson his name, he said, "Dave."

"You said you weren't driving, right?" Kriese asked.

He said, "Yeah, I didn't drive."

Asked how he ended up in the road, Hutchinson said, slurring his words: "I was down in the, were up in Alex for the, uh, conference and then I guess …"

"OK, what kind of conference?"

"We were at, uh, the sheriff's conference."

Hutchinson said, "I'm from Hennepin, I took a cab from some person and …"

"So you were the passenger then?"

Hutchinson said, "Yeah, I didn't drive."

Asked again who was driving, Hutchinson asked more than once what kind of vehicle was involved.

"Like I said, Dave, I don't know what kind of car it is. It's too smashed up right now, but I'm concerned because I don't see anyone else inside, and you're telling me you weren't driving," Kriese said.

"No, absolutely not."

Kriese's report expressed further suspicion that Hutchinson was trying to claim he wasn't driving. An ambulance crew member gave the deputy the keys to the sheriff's squad and said they were not near where Hutchinson was down on the ground, the deputy wrote.

"The keys were in a lane of traffic a short distance away," Kriese noted. "I believe Hutchinson threw the keys out of his pocket so the keys would not be in his possession," Kriese noted.

Prompted by Hutchinson's claims that a cab driver was operating the vehicle, an Alexandria police detective contacted Alec-Courier, one of the two cab companies in town, according to the case file.

The owner, Mark Swanson, said someone from a phone number later determined to be Hutchinson's called at 1:19 a.m. the night of the crash asking whether "there were any bars open still in town, and if he would come pick him up from Arrowwood Resort and bring him to the bar."

Swanson said he explained that by the time he would arrive at Arrowwood and got him to the bar, the establishment would be closed.

The sheriff had three guns with him at the time of the crash and an unopened bottle of hard liquor, the investigation determined, with one of the firearms in his holster having a live round in the chamber. Another was found by law enforcement in the snow nearby, the investigative report said.

Kriese documented seeing the obviously intoxicated sheriff "attempting to grab [the] holster with his hand. I then removed the firearm from Hutchinson and kept the firearm in my possession."

A 90-day jail sentence for Hutchinson was "stayed," meaning he won't have to serve the time unless he violates his probation.

His sentence was nearly identical to the plea agreement he made a week earlier.

He initially was charged with four misdemeanor drunken-driving offenses, including carrying a pistol under the influence. That charge is continued for later dismissal.

Hutchinson, who suffered broken ribs in the crash, has returned to work and entered an outpatient alcohol-dependency program.

He said he decided to drive back to the Twin Cities that night, rather than staying overnight and heading home the next day.

Hutchinson arrived by ambulance shortly before 4 a.m. to Alamore Hospital in Alexandria, where he was told that a judge signed a warrant requiring that he surrender either blood or urine to test for intoxication. He was allowed to choose which would be tested, according to a report from the state trooper who was in the emergency room with the sheriff.

After calling his attorney, Hutchinson chose urine for testing. Many lawyers and law enforcement professionals consider urine samples less accurate than blood samples at detecting alcohol levels.

After initially saying he could not provide a urine sample and asking for water, a urine sample was collected from Hutchinson at about 5:25 a.m., nearly three hours after the crash. Blood-alcohol concentration diminishes with the passage of time after a person stops drinking.

The sheriff's blood alcohol content was measured at 0.134%; the state legal limit is 0.08%, but it drops to 0.04% for anyone driving and possessing a firearm.

Hutchinson was elected to a four-year term as sheriff in 2018. He defeated longtime incumbent Rich Stanek by 2,340 votes. Besides Walz, numerous county commissioners and others have called for Hutchinson to resign rather than seek a second term later this year.

Those calls grew louder earlier this month, when a search warrant was unsealed and disclosed that Hutchinson contended to witnesses and law enforcement officers soon after the wreck that someone else was driving the SUV.

Hutchinson's attorney said in response that the crash "rang his bell."

"Whatever he said at the scene was meaningless given his medical condition," attorney Bruno said.

The 41-year-old sheriff has so far pledged to stay on the job. He told the Star Tribune late last month that "getting sober has helped me regain my drive to serve the people of Hennepin County to the best of my ability. I have a lot more to give."

Star Tribune staff writers Abby Simons and Jessie Van Berkel contributed to this report.