In Mankato, binge drinkers 'dodge a bullet' many times

  • Article by: JEFF SHELMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 17, 2007 - 3:01 PM

Policing the streets of Mankato, home to a university campus with 14,000 students, means dealing with underage drinkers. For Jerry Huettl, Mankato's director of public safety, it's surprising that more of them don't suffer the same fate as Amanda Jax, who died of alcohol poisoning after she turned 21 last month.

Policing the streets of Mankato, home to a university campus with 14,000 students, means dealing with underage drinkers. For Jerry Huettl, Mankato's director of public safety, it's surprising that more of them don't suffer the same fate as Amanda Jax, who died of alcohol poisoning after she turned 21 last month.

"To us it was not a matter of if, it was a matter of when," Huettl said. "I think we have dodged a bullet. People who binge drink like this have dodged a bullet many times in this community. What I'm mostly concerned about is that this was a tragic waste."

Jax was a pre-nursing student at Minnesota State University, Mankato between 2005 and this summer and had been accepted into the nursing program for next spring, a university spokesman said. After a night of drinking, Jax was taken to a friend's apartment near campus. When she didn't wake up, friends called 911.

As a result of Jax's death, Blue Earth County Attorney Ross Arneson is considering whether charges will be filed against one or more bars or one or more bartenders in connection with Jax's night of heavy drinking.

Huettl said he met last week with both the Mankato city attorney and the county attorney about his staff's investigation. Jax's last known stop was Sideliners Bar & Grill in Mankato. Arneson was unavailable for comment on Friday.

This month, Mankato passed a social-house ordinance in which a resident could be fined if underage people are found drinking under their roof. The process of passing that ordinance was underway more than a month before Jax's death.

According to the city's arrest log, 143 people age 18-20 were arrested for underage consumption in September. Another 44 were arrested in October for an average of more than three arrests per day in that 61-day span.

Huettl's officers see people with blood alcohol levels of 0.40 on a weekly basis.

"Certainly we aren't getting all of them," Huettl said. "And that's a lot of people to be arresting."

While Jax's death was shocking, Huettl doesn't believe it will change the behavior of young adults.

"Certainly those people close to Amanda have modified their behavior and hopefully that modification will hold," he said. "Amanda's memory will burn in her friends' minds for a while, but that will fade. We can only hope that the memory that will stay is that bad things can happen when you drink to that kind of level."

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