MINNEAPOLIS - Bail has been set at $500,000 for a woman accused of striking and killing a police officer with her vehicle.
Charges filed against 54-year-old Beth Ilene Freeman, of Mound, say she was under the influence of chemicals and texting in the moments before the fatal collision.
William Mathews, a nine-year veteran of the Wayzata Police department, was fatally hit Friday afternoon while he was removing dangerous debris from Highway 12 near County Road 101. Freeman, who was behind the wheel of the SUV that struck him, was charged in a criminal complaint Monday with two separate counts of criminal vehicular homicide, each of which carries a potential 10-year prison term.
“This is another case of a distracted driver, someone who thought she could drive a one-ton vehicle safely while using her cell phone,” said Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, no relation to the defendant. “She couldn’t and neither can anyone else on our roads. The result is too many of these tragedies where good people are dying through no fault of their own.”
The criminal complaint filed against Freeman quotes a witness following her Nissan Murano as saying there was no indication the defendant even tried to step on the brakes or swerve before hitting Officer Mathews. As he tried to render aid to the officer the witness says Freeman was standing outside her vehicle repeating the phrase "what have I done?" He says one of her front tires was still resting on Officer Mathews, and he had to tell Freeman to move her vehicle off the officer.
Another motorist told investigators that she moved to the left lane when she saw squad lights on the shoulder of the highway as required by Minnesota law. That woman says Freeman, driving in the right lane, passed her doing approximately 65 miles per hour and hit the officer.
A responding Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) says it was evident an hour and 15 minutes after the incident that Beth Freeman was under the influence of a controlled substance as her pulse was elevated, her pupils constricted and she had difficulty in counting backwards. A blood sample was taken, with results pending.
During a post-Miranda interview detectives say Freeman admitted talking on the phone and receiving texts prior to the fatal collision. Forensic tests indicate these activities happened immediately prior to hitting the officer. A search warrant executed on her vehicle yielded drug paraphernalia in the passenger compartment that tested positive for cocaine.
Investigators also obtained a video tape that had been posted to Instagram by a known male that shows Freeman immediately after she struck and killed the victim. In the video she exclaims “I just looked up and he was there.”
In concluding the criminal complaint, prosecutors say the eastbound stretch of Highway 12 where Officer Mathews was hit and killed is clear and straight, and all other traffic was able to see the lights from the officer's squad and move over to give him room.
Beth Freeman made her first court appearance, which only lasted a few minutes, on Tuesday. Freeman's bail was set at $500,000. Her next court date is Oct. 9.
At the time of the fatal collision Friday Freeman was driving without a license, which had been revoked after at least five cases of driving while impaired. The Department of Public Safety DPS) was served a petition this spring filed by Freeman asking that her driving privileges be restored, but that request was denied. DPS ruled her repeated violations made Freeman a threat to public safety.