An hour before DWI crash, Hennepin County sheriff called for a ride to a bar

Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson was driving 126 mph and was not wearing a seatbelt when he crashed

By: - January 20, 2022 9:58 am

Minnesota State Patrol released a trove of documents about the Dec. 8, 2021 DWI crash involving Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson. Above, a photo of the SUV he rolled over.

An hour before he crashed his county-owned vehicle, Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson called an Alexandria cab driver asking whether any bars were still open, according to investigative audio released Thursday by the Minnesota State Patrol. 

The trove of released material  also contained new information, including that Hutchinson was driving more than 120 miles per hour when he crashed his car and was not wearing a seatbelt, the car’s computer data showed. 

Hutchinson told responding officers several times that he was not driving. Officers said he was slurring his words and smelled of alcohol. 

He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor offense of driving while intoxicated. His blood alcohol level was .13%, above the legal limit of .08%. His 90-day sentence was “stayed,” meaning he will not serve any jail time unless he violates the terms of his two-year probation. He was fined $610. 

Douglas County police also released dash-cam footage from the crash scene, in which Hutchinson, seated in the officer’s patrol car, is slurring his words and asking where he is. 

The Douglas County deputy asked his name, to which Hutchinson replied, “Dave.”

He then asked: “You said you weren’t driving, right?” 

Hutchsinson said, “Yeah, I didn’t drive.”

Jeremy Zoss, a sheriff’s office spokesman, said Hutchinson was not immediately available for comment. Hutchinson’s attorney, Fred Bruno, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Earlier this month, a State Patrol search warrant raised questions about Hutchinson’s account of the crash

The dash cam video shows Hutchinson telling a Douglas County police officer a cab driver he called had been driving his car, leading police to start inquiries with local cab companies to see if anyone else might have been driving the SUV.

In one police interview, Mark Swanson, owner and operator of Alec-Courier, an Alexandria cab company, told Alexandria investigators about a phone call he received at 1:19 a.m. 

“I had a guy call me at 1:20-ish and ask me, “Any bars still open?” Swanson said during one phone call with police. “He called me from a 612 number. I said, ‘No, by the time I got there to get you, they’d be all closed down.’ ”

He added: “I never heard back from him again.”

Swanson later provided the phone number to police, who confirmed it was Hutchinson’s. 

A second cab company contacted by police said it  did not receive a call from the sheriff. Police confirmed that neither cab company drives a customer’s car for them, as Hutchinson first claimed. 

“People ask all the time, but I don’t do it. I tell them, nope, we don’t do that,” Swanson said. “We don’t make money doing that, and it’s not safe.”

Asked by Alexandria police if Hutchinson sounded intoxicated, Swanson said the man sounded “a little” intoxicated.

Hutchinson crashed his 2021 Ford Explorer around 2:30 a.m. five miles east in Alexandria along Interstate 94. 

Investigators were also unable to receive a urine sample from Hutchinson for nearly three hours after the crash. A Minnesota State Patrol who had obtained a warrant for Hutchinson’s urine or blood arrived at the hospital in Alexandria around 3:55 a.m. but was unable to speak with Hutchinson until 4:15 a.m.

“I informed Hutchinson (that) refusal to provide a sample is a crime,” Trooper Brian Beuning wrote in his report. “I asked Hutchinson if he would like to provide a blood sample or urine sample. Hutchinson stated he would like to contact his attorney. I informed Hutchinson again I had a signed search warrant from the judge to obtain his blood or urine.”

After asking again, he said Hutchinson waited to respond before saying he “softly stated ‘urine.’ ” 

The urine sample was not collected until 5:15 a.m. because Hutchinson said he didn’t need to urinate when the trooper first arrived.

Hutchinson, who suffered broken ribs and was hospitalized, has faced scrutiny since the Dec. 8 DWI crash. He has pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and refused to resign, saying he is taking responsibility for his actions and receiving outpatient treatment for alcoholism and mental health issues. 

In media interviews in late December, Hutchinson said he had attended a law enforcement convention in Alexandria and had a few drinks before returning to his room at the Arrowwood Resort. He said he was unable to sleep so he decided to make the two- hour drive back to the Twin Cities. 

A majority of Hennepin County commissioners have since called for Hutchinson to resign from his post, but he said he will leave it for voters to decide whether he should keep his job.

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