Authorities on Wednesday declined to immediately file charges against a 49-year-old man suspected of getting drunk, climbing behind the wheel of his van and then running over and killing a bicyclist who was riding home from his new job in downtown Minneapolis.
Police want to wait until test results of the driver’s blood alcohol content come back from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, said police spokesman John Elder. That could take anywhere from a week to a month, Elder said.
The decision meant the driver was released from jail Wednesday afternoon, nearly two full days after he was arrested on suspicion of running over Marcus Nalls, 26, who moved to Minneapolis a month ago with his fiancée for a new job at the Hyatt Regency.
By waiting, Elder explained, authorities can seek the maximum charge possible, criminal vehicular homicide. Without the test results, Elder added, a lesser charge of reckless driving would have been more likely.
“If we charge without that [blood evidence], we’d have to charge to the lower level,” he said. “Then if he pleads guilty, we lose the criminal vehicular operation” option.
The driver also was given a preliminary breath test the night of the crash along W. Franklin Avenue, but that result is not admissible, Elder said. Authorities are not disclosing the breath test results.
“We just want to make sure we are doing this right,” Elder said. “We believe the decedent deserves this as well as his friends and loved ones.”
Elder said the delay in no way suggests any weakness in the case against the driver, adding, “We know what we believe.”
Authorities are comfortable with the decision, even though it means the driver is not incarcerated, Elder said.
“We know where he lives, and he’s not a long-term, repeat offender,” the police spokesman said.
State records show that the suspect, who lives four blocks east of the crash scene, has one minor traffic violation on his record along with convictions for disorderly conduct and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.
Witnesses say Nalls was riding on the shoulder in the same direction as the van and had lights illuminated on the front and back of his bicycle when he was hit Monday night just east of Lyndale Avenue.
The van also hit a car and a large trash bin before coming to a stop on the sidewalk to the right of the heavily traveled avenue in south Minneapolis.
The motorist “obviously was impaired,” said Elder, noting that the driver “had an odor of alcohol emitting from his breath,” along with slurred speech, and bloodshot and watery eyes.
Nalls, a professionally trained sous chef, recently joined the staff at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Minneapolis. He had been working at the Hyatt in downtown Atlanta for the past few years and commuted to work there on a bicycle without incident, said his mother, Nicole Sweigart.
Nalls looked at three apartments in Minneapolis before moving on Jan. 4 with his fiancée to a place about 2 miles away that he felt worked best for his bike ride to his new job, Sweigart added.