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Mpls. hit-and-run suspect's DWI record raises questions

  • Article by: Libor Jany
  • Star Tribune
  • September 2, 2014 - 11:37 PM

Minneapolis police expect to charge a 26-year-old driver in connection with a hit-and-run incident early Monday in the Longfellow neighborhood that left a man critically injured.

Hennepin County attorney spokesman Chuck Laszewski said charges could come by Wednesday afternoon against Kaleb J. Conway for allegedly fleeing after striking a man crossing the street in the 2700 block of East Lake Street.

The victim, Luis Angel Cruz-Guzman, 23, remained in critical condition Tuesday evening at Hennepin County Medical Center with head injuries he suffered in the crash.

Conway has several alcohol-related convictions for driving offenses.

In 2007, Conway was twice arrested in a nine-month period and convicted of underage driving and drinking, according to court records.

Two other times, he was charged with underage drinking, and his criminal history also includes convictions for driving with an open bottle, driving after revocation and fourth-degree drunken driving, records show.

The incident prompted some legislators to question why Conway was able to get behind the wheel after so many brushes with the law on alcohol offenses.

“We need to figure out what is going to stop people from getting behind the wheel,” said state Rep. Dan Schoen, a DFLer from St. Paul Park who also is a police officer.

Last year, more that 25,000 Minnesota motorists were convicted of drunken driving, records show. Among that group, 10,455 (41 percent) had at least one prior drunken driving conviction.

Of Minnesota’s 4 million motorists, 596,170 have at least one alcohol-impaired conviction on their records — one in seven motorists, according to the state Department of Public Safety.

“I think what’s telling about some of the statistics is that we’ve worked really hard to bring attention to it, and we’re always shocked when something happens, but people still do it,” Schoen said.

Schoen, who serves on the state House’s public safety committee, said more should have been done to prevent Conway from driving drunk after his past convictions. Schoen said common measures include being required to use an ignition interlock, a device to prevent him from starting his car when he’s been drinking.

Cruz-Guzman was struck by the eastbound car as he crossed the street about 2:30 a.m. Monday near E. Lake Street and 28th Avenue, according to police.

After the collision, the fleeing car was pulled over by an off-duty Minneapolis police officer, who was working at a nearby business and saw the crash.

Conway was arrested and refused to submit to a breath test, according to police. The results of his toxicology tests will be available in a few weeks.

Schoen said there is only so much that can be done to stop drunken driving. Of the 387 people who died in traffic crashes last year, 81 involved an impaired driver.

“I just don’t know completely that we’re at a point that we’re going to be able to prevent every single one through technology either,” Schoen said.

The only way he sees it happening is if every single car on the road is outfitted with an interlock system.

“And I don’t see that happening any time soon,” he said.

Libor Jany • 612-673-4064 Twitter:@StribJany

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