St. Paul police identify officer who backed into and killed 101-year-old woman

Lori Goulet has been involved in several previous accidents. Meanwhile, St. Paul squad-car incidents have increased since 2008.

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Family of 101-year-old Roza Sakhina who died last week after being backed into by a police officer, chatted with guests at a get together after her funeral at her apartment complex on Friday, August 23, 2013, in St. Paul, Minn. From the left; Lenny Finkelshteyn (grandson), Ilya Finkelshteyn (grandson in far background), Raisa Finkelshteyn (daughter-in-law) and Mark Finkelshteyn (son).

Photo: Renee Jones Schneider,

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The St. Paul police officer who struck and killed 101-year-old Roza Sakhina has been in several other car accidents during her 16 years with the force, including an incident in which she backed into another vehicle after clearing a call.

The officer was identified Monday as Lori Goulet, who backed a squad car into Sakhina on Aug. 16 in the 800 block of Cleveland Avenue S. Sakhina was crossing the street with the aid of a walker on her daily walk. She lived in a high-rise apartment building at the accident scene.

A witness said a police SUV struck Sakhina, who bled profusely from her head and struggled to get up. Authorities have not released a cause of death in the case, but Sakhina’s grandson, Ilya Finkelshteyn, said she suffered a skull facture, rib fracture, internal bleeding and extensive bruising.

According to Goulet’s personnel profile, she was involved in three other accidents early in her career at the department. Those three incidents — in 1994, 1997 and 1998 — were sideswiping accidents, two of which were deemed preventable.

Goulet was orally reprimanded for the 1997 incident after the department’s Accident Review Board determined that the accident was due to inattention.

Goulet also was orally reprimanded for a 2007 accident in which she struck a vehicle while backing up after clearing a call on the 500 block of Hamline Avenue S. The board also determined that that accident was preventable due to inattention.

During her tenure, Goulet has received nine commendations for her police work, including a thank-you letter from the Ramsey County Mental Health Center earlier this year.

Police records show that squad-involved accidents have slowly and steadily increased from 69 in 2008 to 84 in 2012. No numbers were available for 2013.

Sgt. Paul Paulos, a police spokesman, said the accidents can include everything from striking a pole or garbage can to colliding with another vehicle or a pedestrian.

It’s unclear how many of the 2008-12 cases involved pedestrians, but Paulos said such incidents are “pretty rare.” Star Tribune archives show that in 2008, a police squad car collided with a 13-year-old boy riding a bike.

According to police, the boy ran into the side of the car as it traveled east on Minnehaha Avenue E. en route to a disturbance call with its lights and sirens activated. The boy was in fair condition after the accident.

The department’s Accident Review Board found that more than half of the accidents each year were preventable. In 2012, 48 accidents were found to be preventable.

Paulos said the department provides driving training for one-third of its force every three years. Officers are taught skid control and how to back up safely, and they undergo mock car chases. Officers are required to pass an evaluation at the end of the daylong training, Paulos said.

Police declined to release more information about the accident that killed Sakhina, citing an ongoing investigation. Paulos said an internal investigation is underway, and findings will be presented to the Ramsey County attorney’s office for possible charges.

Friends at the high-rise where Sakhina lived for years held a memorial service for her at the building Friday afternoon.

They remembered Sakhina as a wise, independent woman who was mentally sharp and physically healthy. She immigrated to St. Paul from St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1991, having lived through two world wars, the Russian Revolution and the siege of Leningrad.

Her family has declined to comment on the officer’s actions.

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