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February 4, 2004
Chase-Related Crash Wasn't

My local police department has discovered that a state-patrol crash just before Christmas that supposedly resulted from a perp chase was actually caused by a speeding trooper giving another trooper a lift to a hockey game:

A state trooper intent on getting an off-duty colleague to a hockey game allegedly used her squad car's lights and siren and reached speeds of up to 126 mph before crashing into a civilian car in Eagan in December. The trooper then told investigators she had been pursuing a violator when the accident took place, and told an Explorer Scout riding with her to lie about what happened, according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday. ...

According to the complaint: [Jennifer Lee] Schneider initially told a trooper investigating the accident that she was on her way to the Eagan Civic Arena to watch her husband — also a state trooper — play in a hockey game. She told the investigator she saw a motorist go through a red light and, in pursuing the vehicle, crashed her squad car.

But after receiving an anonymous tip, the State Patrol suspected Schneider had filed a false report and asked the Eagan police to investigate.

The highway where Schneider drove 126 MPH is a wide road, but the offramp is a tight and partially blind spiral, amd if Schneider went any faster than 60 MPH, it would have been grossly negligent, even if she snapped on her lights and siren moments before plowing into another driver. More to the point, when we hear a siren and see emergency lights, we expect that the unit is responding to an emergency and isn't a super-taxi for off-duty troopers. Further, we expect troopers to be honest when interrogated, not lie to cover up for each other.

Interestingly, Schneider's one flaw in her cover-up was the Explorer scout who rode along with her and her fare when the crash occurred. Initially the Explorer kept quiet about the truth, but that promptly changed when he was approached by Eagan investigators:

Immediately after the accident, an Eagan officer arrived and was asked by Schneider to transport Olson to the arena. When another trooper arrived to investigate the accident, Schneider indicated that the Explorer Scout was her only passenger.

"The kid came clean right away," Mayer said of the Scout. ...The Explorer Scout, Kyle Paulson, 19, of Oakdale, was reluctant to talk about what took place. When asked if he got a lesson from what happened, he said he learned the importance of one thing.

"Integrity," he said.

It would appear that the Explorer actually received a valuable education from his ride-along, one that Schneider never managed to absorb during her tenure with the State Police. She is lucky no one is dead. When it comes time to prosecute, I hope someone remembers that. That could just as easily have been my car, or my son's car with my granddaughter inside, that Schneider hit at high speed just so her husband's colleague could play in a hockey game. Someone with such little regard for the lives of Minnesotans doesn't belong in a trooper's uniform and should receive a sentence that will make that clear to any other law-enforcement professionals who feel tempted to start their own high-speed taxi services in Minnesota.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 4, 2004 6:32 AM

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