A father and son have been charged with being the hosts of an underage spring break booze party for about 100 people at the family’s unoccupied farm in western Minnesota that was busted by authorities — prompting a star high school athlete who was there drinking to flee and die from exposure to wintry weather.
Gary L. Hastad, 59, and Erik P. Hastad, 19, both of Hantho Township, were charged last week with violating Lac qui Parle County’s social host ordinance, a misdemeanor. The younger Hastad also was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a gross misdemeanor.
The charges will test the county’s social host ordinance, passed in 2011 in an attempt to reduce underage drinking by holding parents and other party hosts criminally liable. Since Chaska enacted Minnesota’s first social host ordinance in 2007, such rules have become commonplace in cities and counties across the state.
Erik Hastad was booked into jail Monday and awaiting a court appearance. Gary Hastad was charged by summons. In addition, several underage partyers, who ran as law enforcement officers arrived shortly before 12:30 a.m. on March 9, were charged with fleeing law enforcement and underage drinking.
The body of Michael Anyasike, 18, of Dawson, Minn., was found the next afternoon about a mile northwest of the party at a different farm. He died from hypothermia due to environmental exposure, with alcohol consumption as a contributing factor, according to the county medical examiner.
Sound system set up
Erik Hastad, who last month pleaded guilty to his fourth underage drinking offense in the past 18 months, spread the word about the Saturday night party at the vacant farm and screened people as they arrived, asking who they were if he did not know them, according to the criminal complaint.
Gary Hastad, the farm’s owner, was not at the party but “reasonably should have known” about it, the complaint read. In making its case against the father, the complaint went on to note that there have been underage drinking parties at the farm previously, that snow was cleared to accommodate vehicles, and that a sound system and spotlights were set up in anticipation of the gathering down the street from his home.
Prosecutors will “have to show that the father had some knowledge or some reason he should have known” about the party, said James Mosher, a California-based consultant on alcohol policies, including social host ordinances. In some areas, such rules are meant to target high school students’ parents, he said, but in college towns, they’re used against students and landlords.
“Once young people turn 18 and 19, I think it’s important to hold them responsible,” Mosher said.
Calls to the Hastads’ home Monday were not answered, and messages left for other family members were not returned.
9 people cited
Two sheriff’s deputies and a Dawson police officer arrived at the farm to bust the party, according to the complaint. Many attendees ran — some breaking through windows — in an effort not to get caught. Some were protected from the elements by little more than T-shirts and light clothing.
“Law enforcement used their PA system to notify those who fled from the scene to return to the home to get warm,” the complaint says.
Nine people, ages 16 to 20, were cited for underage drinking. Six of those nine were also charged with fleeing police, including Matthew C. Stratmoen, 19, a former football teammate of Anyasike’s.
Just hours after Anyasike died, Stratmoen wrote on Twitter: “I’m glad I got to spend your last night with you. Keep the party going up there.”
Several of the partyers told authorities that news of the BYOB party spread via text message or word-of-mouth, with Erik Hastad personally extending some of the invitations.
One partyer interviewed said there had been two previous parties at this farm over the winter, and another said this bash was to mark spring break for the students. The farmhouse northeast of Madison had been owned by Gary Hastad’s brother, Keith, until his death in a grain-bin accident at the farm in 2010.
Anyasike was a senior and lead running back for the Dawson-Boyd High School football team, which made it to the Prep Bowl last fall. He had planned to attend St. John’s University.
Staff writer Jenna Ross contributed to this report.