Monica Say of Monticello was stopped with her boys ages 2 and 4 in the back seat and a .21 blood-alcohol level, police say.
West Hennepin Public Safety Director Ray McCoy spotted his target when the drunken driver passed him, swerving all over the road, nearly colliding with other vehicles and almost careening into the ditch.
It was when he saw the two young boys in the back seat that a feeling of dread took over, McCoy said.
With an uncapped bottle of rum in a diaper bag and her sons, ages 2 and 4, in the car, a drunken driver led police on a 4-mile-plus pursuit through heavy traffic on Hwy. 12 in western Hennepin County last Thursday. She was arrested without injury to herself and her children. A preliminary breath test revealed her blood-alcohol content to be nearly three times the legal limit.
Monica Mary Margaret Say of Monticello, who turned 30 on Tuesday, has been charged with felony fleeing an officer, misdemeanor driving while intoxicated and gross misdemeanor child endangerment. She was released Monday after posting $20,000 bail.
"I've seen a few cases like this," McCoy said Wednesday. "With all the education out there and with all the encouragement not to drink and drive, people continue to make poor choices. This was very poor, with two kids in the car, and my heart goes out to those little guys."
Reported by another driver
McCoy said it was just before 5 p.m. when 911 operators received a complaint about someone driving erratically and nearly causing collisions near County Road 90 and Hwy. 12 in Independence. McCoy responded to the call in an unmarked squad car and immediately spotted Say.
He tried to stop her, but she continued westbound 4.5 miles with McCoy behind her, lights activated and sirens blaring. McCoy said that Say never accelerated the pursuit to high speed, but that she continued to weave through lines of rush-hour traffic that had slowed or pulled over when spotting the pursuing police car.
"She was totally incapable of driving and nearly hit a couple other cars that had pulled over for me," McCoy said. "She was just totally oblivious to what was going on."
McCoy said he spotted the two boys in the back seat before he began the pursuit, making things dicey. Were the children not in the car, he said it was possible that he would have engaged in a PIT maneuver, ramming the car to force it to stop.
After 4 1/2 miles, Say pulled over at Hwy. 12 and County Line Road at Delano. The boys were fine, McCoy said, and unaware of what had happened. The older boy was secured by a safety belt, while the 2-year-old was in a car seat that was not secured to the back seat.
Say, who was "quasi-cooperative," told McCoy she was heading from Fridley and was going to drop her kids off in Monticello before work.
Marijuana was found in the front seat of Say's 1996 Buick Regal, while the open bottle of rum was found in a diaper bag, police said. A preliminary breath test revealed Say's blood-alcohol level to be .217. A second breath test registered at .17.
Children in care of sister
Say's rap sheet includes a list of offenses, including four convictions for driving without a license, as well as tickets for speeding, driving without headlights and crossing the center line. Her record includes a 2005 conviction for assaulting a police officer with demonstrable bodily harm.
The children were placed in the care of Say's sister, McCoy said. He would not say whether child welfare authorities became involved.
While grateful that no one was hurt in the speed-limit chase, McCoy pointed out the initiative of the driver who took the time to call authorities to report Say's behavior, and possibly prevent tragedy.
"She went by a lot of cars, and one mom took the initiative to call," McCoy said. "That's the hero in this whole deal."
Say has a court appearance scheduled for Dec. 1. Say could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Abby Simons • 612-673-4921 Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482