The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

October 6, 2011

Fatal crash in New Ulm under review

New Ulm police officer involved in crash could face charges after investigation

NEW ULM — The Redwood County Attorney is in the process of reviewing a Minnesota State Patrol investigation of a July crash where two people were killed after being struck by a New Ulm police squad car.

Part of the review of the investigative report involves determining whether any criminal charges are warranted against New Ulm Police Officer Mathew Rasmussen, but Redwood County Attorney Steven Collins said it’s too early to say whether charges are possible.

Collins received the lengthy report on Tuesday and said it includes video recordings and hundreds of photographs. He also wants to interview some of the investigators who looked into the case after New Ulm police referred it to the State Patrol due to the potential for a conflict of interest.

“It’s premature at this point to talk about any charges,” Collins said.

The report, which was completed late last week, won’t be made public until Collins finishes his review and makes a decision about whether any prosecution is warranted.

The initial incident report from the Patrol contains little detail about the July 8 crash on Garden Street in New Ulm. That report stated that Myra Meyer, 82, of New Ulm was driving a Mercury Sable northeast on Garden Street and attempting to make a left turn into a driveway.

Meyer’s vehicle was struck by a 2009 Ford Crown Victoria squad car being driven southwest on Garden Street by Rasmussen. A passenger in Meyer’s car — her son, Brian Wichmann, 60, of Mankato — was killed.

Meyer was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis and died 10 days later.

Rasmussen was treated at the New Ulm Medical Center for non-life-threatening injuries, according to the incident report.

When the state patrol completed its nearly three-month investigation, the report was sent to Brown County Attorney Robert Hinnenthal, who forwarded it to Collins for the same reason the New Ulm police handed off the investigation to the patrol.

“We deal with New Ulm Police Department officers all of the time in our office, so it’s probably inappropriate for us to be making a decision on that matter,” Hinnenthal said.

Collins expects to take at least seven days to review the crash investigation, which will be made public after he determines whether any prosecution is required.

Meyer, with her father Ben Bauermeister, was the long-time owner and operator of a vintage popcorn wagon that was a fixture for decades at New Ulm community events. Wichmann worked at MRCI and was active in Leisure Education for Exceptional People (LEEP).

Rasmussen is a patrol officer who had seven years of law enforcement experience and 18 months with the New Ulm Police Department at the time of the crash.

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