I guess its a guessing game until testing is complete. Sadly, the victims family and friends are the ones paying the price…
St. Paul lawyer who struck, killed runner was ‘unsafe to drive,’ police said
By MARA H. GOTTFRIED | firstname.lastname@example.org |
PUBLISHED: February 24, 2017 at 11:34 am | UPDATED: February 24, 2017 at 7:50 pm
A breath test showed no alcohol in the system of a driver who allegedly struck and killed a runner crossing a St. Paul road, but a drug-recognition officer wrote in a search warrant that the man appeared “to be under the influence of one or more substances and is unsafe to drive a motor vehicle.”
The officer looked in Peter Holmes Berge’s “mouth and saw a white residue on his tongue with a green tint to it,” and noted that based on his “training and experience that it could be marijuana residue,” according to the affidavit in support of the search warrant, filed Friday in Ramsey County District Court.
Berge, 60, told the officer he had not smoked marijuana in a long time and couldn’t recall the last time he had.
Police arrested Berge on suspicion of criminal vehicle operation after the Wednesday crash, saying they suspected the St. Paul man of being under the influence and possibly on his phone. He was released from the Ramsey County jail on Friday morning pending further investigation.
Scott Allen Spoo, a 35-year-old who was an engineer at 3M, was struck by Berge’s sport-utility vehicle when he was in the crosswalk on Mississippi River Boulevard at Dayton Avenue about 4:40 p.m. Wednesday, according to police.
Spoo, of St. Paul, was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center and died of multiple blunt-force injuries about 5:35 p.m. Wednesday.
Berge, who has been a lawyer in Minnesota for more than 30 years, told police a man had “stepped out in front of him and he did not see him,” according to the search warrant affidavit. Berge declined to comment to the Pioneer Press on Thursday and could not be reached Friday.
After the crash, Berge agreed to complete voluntary field sobriety tests, according to the affidavit from St. Paul officer Alexander Graham. Berge told Graham he had “no physical defects, … had not taken any medications or illicit substances, and had not consumed alcohol,” the document continued.
Berge was unable to complete the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test — when an officer uses a penlight and asks someone to follow the light with his eyes — and “almost fell three times during the Walk and Turn Test,” the affidavit continued. Graham wrote in the affidavit that during the One Leg Test Stand, Berge “hopped, swayed … and put his foot down three times before I terminated the test for his safety.”
The search warrant, which a judge granted, was to obtain blood samples from Berge on Wednesday. Police continue to investigate the circumstances of the crash and said they expect results from the blood testing in July.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s crime lab, which conducts testing for St. Paul police, said the average toxicology testing turnaround time was 70 days for cases completed in February.
The Hennepin County attorney’s office will handle the review of the Berge case and a spokesman said Friday they they “will be in a position to make a charging decision” when the testing is complete.
The Ramsey County attorney’s office said Thursday they were referring the case to another county attorney’s office to avoid a potential conflict of interest. Berge was a past supporter of, and financial contributor to, County Attorney John Choi’s campaign committee.
Berge worked at Minnesota Continuing Legal Education for the last 10 years, until the end of January, and is ethics chairman for the Hennepin County Bar Association.
Spoo was a 3M senior product development engineer in the stationery and office supplies division. He worked for the company for 11 years and was an avid bicyclist and runner.
Sarah Horner contributed to this report.