Attorney defends police work as fleeing driver charged in Minneapolis fatality

The motorist measured at twice the legal blood-alcohol limit after a high-speed chase the victim’s family questioned as too dangerous.

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A suspected drunken driver fleeing the State Patrol crashed into another car and killed that vehicle's driver early Monday in Minneapolis.

Speeding through downtown Minneapolis, a drunken Yia Her steered his car over a sidewalk, through bushes, past red lights and down a one-way street — the wrong way —while fleeing a State Patrol trooper early Monday, according to criminal charges filed Wednesday.

The trooper bumped Her’s car four times during the three-minute pursuit, but Her didn’t stop until he ran a red light and slammed into another car, killing a young man and injuring another.

Saying that Her’s refusal to pull over was a violation of a “basic part of our civilization,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman charged Her with two felony charges of fleeing police in a vehicle, causing death or injury. Her was driving with a suspended license and had a blood-alcohol level of 0.16 percent, twice the allowable limit in Minnesota, according to the charges.

Her, 34, who remains jailed in lieu of $500,000 bail, was scheduled to appear Thursday in Hennepin County District Court in connection with the death of Brody A. Sotona, 20, a budding rock musician from western Wisconsin. A passenger in Sotona’s car was severely injured.

The patrol’s pursuit of Her and the subsequent collision prompted Sotona’s family to criticize law enforcement for its actions in trying to make the arrest.

The State Patrol said the chase underscores the perilous nature of law-enforcement efforts to stop drunken drivers, with Lt. Eric Roeske noting how dangerous impaired drivers are to the lives of others who may be in their way.

Speaking after Her was charged, Freeman said “it’s one of those really, really tough calls” for officers to make about when to press on and pursue a suspect and when to call it off.

“It’s hard to know, but these officers are trained in it,” he said. “I think the bottom line to me, this officer didn’t cause the death of the victim, Her caused it. And that’s why Her’s going to do big time. He’s the one who caused the death.”

Upon his arrest, Her admitted that he was fleeing the trooper because he didn’t want to get caught driving with a suspended license, according to the complaint. He also said he couldn’t remember many details of the pursuit because he was drunk at the time, the complaint added.

Her’s driving record in Minnesota includes at least 17 violations since 2001, with 10 of those being for speeding. He also has been cited for driving without a license.

His run-ins with the law also include a conviction in July 2012 for felony third-degree assault and two subsequent convictions for violating a domestic-abuse no-contact order. All three were in Ramsey County.

Sotona’s passenger and fellow Crush band member, Connor W. Macklin, 24, of Stillwater, remained in critical condition Wednesday. The complaint against Her said Macklin “may have a brain injury and a broken pelvis [and] remains unconscious.”

According to the charges, the trooper, parked near downtown Minneapolis along a ramp to westbound Interstate 94 and aiming his radar gun at passing vehicles, clocked Her at 70 miles per hour in a 55-mph zone.

The trooper, whose identity has not been released, moved in behind Her and saw him crossing lane lines. The trooper also determined that Her was driving with a suspended license, then switched on his emergency lights. Her stopped on the right shoulder of I-94 near 11th Street.

As the trooper walked toward the car, Her sped away, prompting the trooper to get back in his squad and pursue the suspect.

Her entered downtown Minneapolis, running red lights and going the wrong way on one-way streets. He entered a parking lot — running over bushes and other landscaping — and drove over a sidewalk.

He stopped briefly near 4th Street and 3rd Avenue S., only to speed away again. He drove on the wrong side of a street, fled over the Mississippi River on the 3rd Avenue Bridge and raced north on Central Avenue. The trooper tried a maneuver to force Her’s car to a stop, but that failed. After running the red light at University Avenue, Her did the same at 4th Street SE. That’s where he hit Sotona’s car broadside in the intersection, pushing that vehicle nearly a half-block.

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  • Hennepin County attorney Mike Freeman acknowledged the danger in Monday’s high-speed chase downtown, but said the blame for the death of Brody Sotona belonged solely to Yia Her.

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