A pickup truck driver who fatally struck a 15-year-old boy skateboarding north of the Twin Cities and then left the scene has been charged with a felony. The criminal complaint, however, also places responsibility on the teenager.
Adam J. Maki, 31, of Isanti, was charged this week in Isanti County District Court with failing to stop after inflicting injury or death while driving. Maki was charged by summons and is scheduled to appear in court Dec. 22.
Antonio DeMeules had just started 10th grade at Blaine High School when he was killed while skateboarding down the middle of westbound 285th Avenue NE. in Isanti on Sept. 10, 2015.
DeMeules was found in the middle of 285th, just east of Hwy. 65, about 8:15 p.m. A motorist saw the boy skateboarding on the centerline of the road in dark clothing, then came a short time later and, along with another passerby, spotted him on the ground severely injured. DeMeules was taken by ambulance to Cambridge Medical Center and pronounced dead.
About 21 hours later, Maki arrived at the Sheriff’s Office and said to an investigator, “I was the one who hit the kid last night,” the criminal complaint against him read. He explained that he realized he was the driver who hit the boy after seeing a television news report about the incident.
He told authorities that he felt a bump to his front bumper from the impact and thought he hit an animal, possibly a dog or a turkey no taller than 24 to 30 inches. He then continued home from having a meal and two beers at a bar and grill.
“If I knew now what I knew then, I would have stopped, no hesitation whatsoever,” the complaint quoted Maki as telling the investigator.
A state trooper’s crash reconstruction investigation noted several factors in DeMeules’ control that led to the crash, including: riding in the middle of a lane of traffic, wearing dark clothing well after sunset and sitting on the skateboard and propelling himself with his feet, thus reducing the chances of being seen by a motorist.
There is no evidence, the complaint continued, that Maki’s drinking of two beers that evening had a role in the crash, nor was there evidence he was using a phone or driving in a risky manner at the time of the crash.
DeMeules’ mother, Renee Salazar of Blaine, said she is happy Maki was charged, but she is disappointed it was not the charge she wanted — criminal vehicular homicide.
Salazar also said the complaint went overboard on placing responsibility for the crash on Antonio. She disputed that her son wore only dark clothing, noting that there was a yellow stripe on his jacket similar to what people out for a walk wear.
Defense attorney Jennifer Speas said Thursday that “it’s rare” for a complaint to place so much responsibility on the victim, yet still go through with a charge.
“It’s an odd case,” Speas said. “I think he was charged because someone died.”
Speas went so far as to compliment the prosecution’s narrative in the complaint, calling it “well-written.”
She said it “clearly stated what went on” concerning her client’s degree of cooperation, how safely he was driving and how the boy’s actions led to the fatal collision.
County Attorney Jeffrey Edblad said Thursday that he initially declined to file a complaint in the case in February because “there were no criminal charges that could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”
However, Edblad continued, the Sheriff’s Department agreed at the request of the teen’s family to do a follow-up investigation.
Once that was completed, “I reviewed the information developed ... and made the decision to file the criminal complaint as to the leaving the scene of an accident where a death took place and the driver was not the cause of the crash.”
Specifically, the additional investigating revealed that the evening of the crash, Maki searched on his smartphone for “isanti county mn scanner.” “This action would be inconsistent with someone believing that they had hit a dog or a turkey with their vehicle as Mr. Maki claimed he believed he had done, which was his stated reason for not stopping his vehicle,” the county attorney said.