The motorist accused of fatally striking Wayzata Police Officer William Mathews while he cleared debris on Hwy. 12 on Friday was driving on a revoked license and had a history of serious traffic infractions, court records show.
Beth Ilene Freeman, 54, of Mound, remained in the Hennepin County jail Saturday pending likely charges of criminal vehicular homicide. Freeman has an extensive criminal record, including prior convictions for aggravated and careless driving, DWI, and driving without a license. She's also racked up at least six felonies for fifth-degree drug possession.
Officials said that Freeman stopped and cooperated with police after the collision Friday afternoon. Authorities are continuing to investigate what led to the crash, saying that alcohol was not a factor.
Mathews, 47, was a nine-year member of the Wayzata force. He'd pulled his marked squad car over to the side of eastbound Hwy. 12 to remove debris about 12:30 p.m. Friday before being hit. First responders quickly arrived and began lifesaving efforts, but Mathews was pronounced dead at the hospital, said Sheriff Rich Stanek.
The Wayzata Police Department employs about a dozen sworn officers, according to its website. The family has declined, through the department, to be interviewed. Funeral arrangements will be announced soon, the department said Saturday, as will details of an "Officer Bill Mathews Memorial Fund" to be established at Wells Fargo in Wayzata.
Freeman is expected be charged sometime next week. Court records show that she had petitioned to have her driver's license reinstated in February, but Hennepin County Judge Bruce A. Peterson upheld the license revocation in March.
And it wasn't her first time driving without a valid license. Freeman's license had been canceled by the state at least two times prior, records show — in 2004 and 2009 — as someone inimical to public safety, meaning she has had a history of moving violations.
At the time of Friday's crash, Freeman remained on a three-year supervised probation period related to a 2016 drug conviction.
Wayzata Police Chief Mike Risvold, grief-struck and brief when announcing Mathews' death Friday, later shared more in a post on the department's Facebook page.
"Officer Bill Mathews was the best! Always smiling — always professional," his message read. "His loss is excruciatingly painful. Painful for his family at home and at work."
Risvold gave thanks to police departments around Minnesota, many of which shared words of consolation on their social media feeds.
"Our Wayzata Police family is grateful for all of the love and support shown by so many. Our brothers and sisters in law enforcement have wrapped their arms around us, and we feel you."
Wayzata police shared another message of gratitude Friday night on their Twitter page. "Words cannot express how grateful we are for the outpouring of support and love as we cope with such a difficult loss," they wrote.
State Patrol Col. Matt Langer said the agency will re-create the crash and produce a report, a process that takes several weeks.