The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

July 22, 2011

Mistakes admitted in Baker investigation

MANKATO — A Mankato police officer who left the scene of a car crash in May should have been tested for alcohol that morning and eventually fired, said Director of Public Safety Todd Miller.

Investigators waited four days to interview 35-year-old Kenneth Baker about the morning he crashed his car into a Warren Street retaining wall.

During that interview, the off-duty officer admitted he had consumed between eight and nine beers at three downtown bars between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m., according to police reports released this week. A criminal complaint filed against Baker implied he had been interviewed about 11 hours after the crash.

Because four days had passed, officers had no way to determine if the beer drinking had pushed Baker over the legal limit for driving. After determining Baker had left the scene of the 2:20 a.m. crash and had hidden his car in his Savannah Court garage, investigators went to his house and attempted to talk to him. They stopped short of getting a search warrant when Baker didn’t answer his door or his phone.

“I can tell you our staff called the State Patrol while they were investigating, because this doesn’t happen very often, and asked if they would get a search warrant,” said Miller, who supervises both the police and fire departments.

Because Baker was facing misdemeanor charges, the troopers said, under normal circumstances, they wouldn’t go in after the suspect. By the time Miller found out what was happening at about 7 a.m. May 27, it was too late to gather evidence that would show whether Baker was too drunk to legally drive at the time of the crash.

“I would have had them get a search warrant right away and go in,” Miller said. “Even though the State Patrol wouldn’t go in under normal circumstances, I hold my people and myself to a different standard.”

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