A man charged with running a red light and killing another driver just northwest of the Twin Cities explained to investigators that the Gatorade he drank shortly before the collision — and not the illicit drugs in his system — “made him feel weird,” according to the charges.
The Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office said 36-year-old Juan Carlos Garcia-Morales had a loaded handgun and methamphetamine on him when drug investigators tracked him down Thursday at an apartment building in New Brighton.
Garcia-Morales appeared in court Friday on charges of felony criminal vehicular homicide and reckless driving after toxicology tests found amphetamine and methamphetamine in his blood when his SUV struck a car being driven by 33-year-old Matthew D. Barthel of Big Lake on the morning of Feb. 22.
At the time of the crash, just west of Big Lake at Hwy. 10 and County Road 81, Barthel was about 3 miles from arriving at his job in technology support for the Monticello School District.
The impact of Garcia-Morales’ SUV sent Barthel’s car into another vehicle sitting at the intersection, according to the State Patrol. That driver was not hurt.
Garcia-Morales was hospitalized after the crash with noncritical injuries and subsequently released. A warrant was then issued for his arrest on suspicion of criminal vehicular homicide.
On March 1, Garcia-Morales at first told a state trooper that he couldn’t recall whether the light was red or green when he entered the intersection, the charges read. Later in the same statement, he told the trooper that he thought the light was green, the complaint added.
He also told the trooper that “he had been involved in an argument with his girlfriend that morning [and] also said he was drinking a bottle of Gatorade which made him feel weird,” the charging document said.
Garcia-Morales has been convicted in Minnesota at least five times in the past 10 years for driving without a valid license.
He had a valid license at the time of the collision, the state Department of Public Safety said Monday. It was restored from revocation less than six weeks before the crash, the agency said.
Garcia-Morales' criminal history in the state also includes convictions for disorderly conduct, domestic assault, malicious punishment of a child and receiving stolen property.
He remains jailed and is due back in court May 24. His attorney was not immediately available to respond to the charges.