LA CROSSE, Wis. - For months the story has dominated front pages in La Crosse. A deputy sheriff responding to calls for backup at a bar fight, blows through a red light and kills a 16-year-old boy.
Fired from her job at the La Crosse County Sheriff's Department, Trisha Stratman is now on trial for negligent homicide.
The La Crosse Tribune, which has been following the trial,reports Stratman reached speeds of 122 mph after answering the call for backup.Jurors were told the deputywas traveling 107 mph seconds before the impact that killed high school student Brandon Jennings as he drove his car into the intersectionon a green light on July 18, 2010.
Ben Weigel, another motorist, testified Stratman was going so fast he didn't hear her siren coming up behind him.
"When that squad car passed me there was so much impact and it was going so fast it actually shook my vehicle," Weigel testified.
The director of the Law Enforcement Program at Hennepin Technical College says it's possible Stratman didn't even realize how fast she was driving.
"We call it tunnel vision," said Mylan Masson.
Masson spoke in general terms, having no firsthand knowledge of the Stratman case, but she said officers can get so fixed on the urgency of a task at hand that they can lose sight of their surroundings.
"All of a sudden your hearing will drop down, your sense of smell will drop down, your sense of vision will drop down, and that's what tunnel vision is."
Masson says it's a lesson law enforcement students are constantly taught: "Look up, look right, look left."
That Stratman was driving very fast, her attorney does not dispute. "She's going fast because an officer asked for backup and she feels she's the closest back up," said defense attorney Joel Loeb in court. "She balances the emergency with the risks of going fast.
Now jurors must decide if 122 mph is privileged conduct by an officer trying to help, or a reckless disregard for life.
The trial is scheduled to continue Wednesday in La Crosse.