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Lakeville man claims his sneeze caused him to fatally hit teen biker

Joseph Friedges, 72, of Lakeville has been charged with two counts of criminal vehicular homicide after hitting a teen bicyclist in Scott County Friday.
Credit: KARE

CEDAR LAKE, Minn. — A Lakeville man has been charged with vehicular homicide after hitting a teen cyclist with his vehicle.

Joseph Benjamin Friedges, 72, of Lakeville, has been charged in Scott County with two counts of criminal vehicular homicide, with one for operating his vehicle under the influence of alcohol. According to the criminal complaint, Friedges claims his sneeze caused him to veer into a nearby ditch, hitting a teen cyclist.

Officers were dispatched to the intersection of Zachary Avenue and 260th Street West in Cedar Lake Township just before 7:15 p.m. Friday, July 1. When the Scott County Sheriff’s Department arrived, a 15-year-old was already dead and the driver had left the scene, court documents said.

According to the complaint, Friedges told officials he did not realize he had hit anyone until he looked back and saw the victim’s body in the road. Court documents said Friedges never called 911.

Credit: Scott County Jail

Friedges approached a sheriff’s deputy at the scene and claimed that he had “his cruise control set at 55 miles per hour when he sneezed and went into the south ditch.”

Officers noticed an odor of alcohol coming from Friedges, so they asked him to perform a sobriety test. He admitted to drinking a couple “Sprite Vodkas a couple hours before driving,” court documents said.

Police now believe that Friedges’ vehicle swerved across the road and struck the victim near the intersection of Zachary Avenue, and then drove away, the complaint said.

The victim’s parents said their child “would often drive his bike on Zachary Avenue,” according to the documents.

Friedges is in custody and his first court hearing is scheduled for July 18. If convicted, the maximum sentence he could face is up to 10 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine, for each charge.

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