An elderly man in Minnesota allegedly told officers he struck and killed a teenage riding his bicycle after sneezing and driving off the road, authorities said.
Shortly after 7 p.m. on July 1, 2022, the Scott County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report in Cedar Lake of a 15-year-old boy, later identified as Braxton C. Sorenson, who was fatally hit by a driver who then left, WCCO-TV reported.
While investigators were at the scene, 72-year-old Joseph Friedges spoke with a deputy and allegedly admitted he was the driver of the 2003 GMC truck that killed the teenager, officers wrote in a criminal complaint.
According to Friedges, he was driving at 55 miles per hour with his cruise control on when he sneezed, drove into the ditch and returned to the road but didn’t realize he struck the victim until he looked back, the complaint states.
While speaking with the suspect, officers said they observed a box of Smirnoff vodka in the man’s back seat and noted he had red eyes and smelled of alcohol.
Friedges allegedly admitted he drank vodka sprites hours before the deadly incident and a preliminary breath test showed he had a blood-alcohol content of .05, according to the complaint. Motorists in Minnesota can be arrested even if they are below .08 BAC, the state’s legal alcohol-concentration driving limit.
Deputies took Friedges into custody and he faced two counts of criminal vehicular homicide – one for operating a motor vehicle in a grossly negligent manner, and the other for operating a vehicle with negligence under the influence of alcohol, according to KSTP-TV.
Friedges recently took a plea deal in the case, and the felony criminal vehicular homicide charges against him were dropped, the Star Tribune reported.
According to the publication, he pleaded guilty to the gross misdemeanor of failure to notify law enforcement of a crash with injuries as well as two misdemeanor counts — careless driving and having open liquor in a vehicle.
A judge ordered the defendant to serve 30 days in jail and two years on supervised probation. He must also reportedly attend a MADD Impact Panel, write a letter of apology and pay fines totaling over $1,000.
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