Sheriff Hutchinson DWI crash: Key takeaways from newly released investigation files

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety released hundreds of files Thursday from the investigation into Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson's DWI crash, including documents, images, video and audio.

Taken together, the investigative case files provide a clearer picture of what exactly happened the morning of Dec. 8, when the Hennepin County sheriff rolled his county-owned vehicle on I-94 in Alexandria.

Hutchinson, in his first term, admitted to drinking before getting behind the wheel and eventually pleaded guilty to misdemeanor DWI.

Here are some of the key learnings from the investigative files:

Hutchinson's speed

In the 5 seconds before the wreck, Hutchinson was traveling as fast as 126.2 mph, according to a crash data retrieval document. He had started breaking about 1.6 seconds before the crash, when he was going 83.3 mph, and at the time of the crash he was going 78.5 mph.

Witnesses saw him crawling from the vehicle

State Trooper Beasley wrote that he spoke with two witnesses who saw the aftermath of the crash. They said they noticed a crashed car with a person crawling away from it. The witnesses went to check and the individual, Hutchinson, told them he wasn't driving and it wasn't his car.

Open alcohol containers in the car

Law enforcement officers tasked with documenting items in the county-owned SUV noted bottles of alcohol in the vehicle. That included a bottle of Eagle Rare bourbon in passenger compartment. A search warrants specifically notes "open containers," plural, of alcoholic beverages.

Deputy believes he threw keys away

Douglas County Deputy Kriese, in their report, notes an ambulance crew member found the SUV's keys in the lane of traffic a "short distance" from the crash — not near where Hutchinson was laying. Wrote the deputy: "I believe Hutchinson threw the keys out of his pocket so the keys would not be in his possession."

Signs of impairment

Troopers and deputies who responded to the crash scene all noted numerous signs of impairment, including difficulty walking and balancing (though Hutchinson did have an ankle injury as well), slurred speech, a strong odor of alcohol and "illogical responses" to questions he was asked. Squad car footage shows some of this.

In his guilty plea, Hutchinson admitted to having a BAC of 0.13.

Guns in car, on ground

Law enforcement officers found Hutchinson had three guns at the time of the crash:

  • A patrol rifle, secured in the rear of the SUV
  • A Smith and Wesson revolver, found laying in the snow nearby other debris and belongings
  • A handgun, in a holster on Hutchinson's right side when officers arrived on the scene — and which Deputy Kriese then took from him. The deputy wrote that "upon unloading the firearm, it was loaded with a round in the chamber."

Hutchinson had been charged with carrying a pistol while under the influence of alcohol, a misdemeanor. The state agreed to a continuance for dismissal on that count as part of the plea agreement.

Hutchinson insisted he wasn't driving

In the immediate aftermath of the crash, Hutchinson repeated he was not driving, and in some cases said a cab driver he'd called had been behind the wheel. Neither of the two cab companies in the city picked Hutchinson up, according to the investigation. 

One, however, had received a call at 1:19 a.m. — about 70 minutes before the crash — from a phone number later found to be Hutchinson's, asking if there were any bars still open, and requested a cab pick him up from Arrowwood Resort (where the sheriff's conference he'd been attending that night was being held). The taxi dispatcher "explained to the man that by the time he arrived at Arrowwood, and got him to the bar, the bar would be closed. "

Hutchinson declined to give a statement

As investigators sought to get a statement from Hutchinson, the sheriff, through his attorney, ultimately declined to provide one. Instead, they referred to the public news release Hutchinson, through the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office, released the following day.