New search warrant affidavits filed in court Friday reveal that the prominent attorney whose vehicle fatally struck a runner in St. Paul last month had collided with a car just minutes earlier.
Peter H. Berge, 60, struck a Mini Cooper on 6th Street in Minneapolis that was about to enter eastbound I-94 on Feb. 22.
About 4:40 p.m., Berge’s BMW struck and killed 35-year-old Scott Spoo, who was running on Mississippi River Blvd. at Dayton Avenue in St. Paul.
About a week later, Berge was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, according to his friend Mike Salovich.
According to court documents: The Mini Cooper’s driver told police that she had to get Berge’s attention because he apparently was unaware of the collision. The two pulled over to a safe location and exchanged insurance information.
The Mini Cooper’s driver then asked Berge why a light on his BMW was hanging by a wire, and he said that he had struck a mailbox two weeks earlier, the affidavits said.
The documents also show that one witness told police that Berge was driving erratically southbound on Mississippi River Blvd.
“That witness stated at one point he saw Berge driving with his cellphone in his hand and Berge kept looking down at his phone,” one affidavit said. “The witness stated that Berge was varying his speed including rapidly accelerating and swerving into oncoming traffic, including forcing one oncoming vehicle off to the shoulder of the road to avoid a collision.”
It is unclear at what time the witness encountered Berge.
Squad camera footage captured Berge in the squad’s back seat making at least one call and “continually” using his phone, an affidavit said. An officer took Berge’s phone, placed it on airplane mode and kept it out of Berge’s reach.
The three affidavits signed March 1 and filed Friday sought to obtain call data from Berge’s iPhone, “electronic message” data such as e-mails or text messages from the phone and crash data from Berge’s vehicle.
Berge, who underwent brain surgery a week after the fatal collision, has not been charged in either case. A breath test showed no alcohol in his system, and he told officers that he hadn’t taken any drugs or medication. Police took blood for toxicology tests.
The case was moved to Hennepin County because Berge has been a supporter and contributor to Ramsey County Attorney John Choi’s campaign committee. Chuck Laszewski, a spokesman for the Hennepin County attorney’s office, has said that toxicology results could take “several months.”
Salovich said last week that doctors found four lesions in Berge’s brain and did a biopsy on one on Feb. 27. The lesions turned out to be malignant tumors. Salovich said that Berge has “primary glioblastoma brain cancer,” a very aggressive form of cancer.
Spoo, 35, of Woodbury, died a shortly after the collision. He was an avid runner and bicyclist who had worked for 3M for 11 years and was an engineer.
Berge’s attorney could not be reached for comment Friday.