Little Canada man crashes van into St. Paul restaurant

A Little Canada man has been charged with fleeing a police officer and five counts of criminal vehicular operation after he allegedly crashed his minivan into a restaurant in Lowertown St. Paul last week.

Just before midnight on Friday, May 2, a state patrol trooper received a radio call reporting an “erratic” motorist on U.S. Highway 61 who was speeding, crossing the center line and nearly crashed into a wall, according to the criminal complaint.

The trooper was able to locate the minivan on Interstate 94 near Mounds Boulevard as it allegedly “weaved” its way down the Sixth Street exit ramp. The complaint states that the driver “slowed and almost stopped” before accelerating away from the squad car.

As the minivan exited onto Sixth Street, the trooper activated the squad’s emergency lights, and then the siren, but the driver allegedly drove away from the car “at an extremely high rate of speed,” the complaint states.

The motorist then attempted to turn right onto Wacouta Street, but ended up crashing into the east side of The Bulldog Restaurant and Bar, located at 237 E. 6th St. The driver and sole occupant of the vehicle, later identified as Matthew Damman, 31, of Little Canada was unresponsive and slumped over toward the passenger side of the vehicle, according to the complaint.

Damman slowly awoke, and appeared groggy and lethargic, and could not walk without assistance, the complaint states. The trooper also noticed an odor of alcohol coming from him.

When asked why he fled from the trooper, Damman reportedly told him his blood sugar was low, and said it was the third time in six months he had experienced this problem.

The trooper determined Damman’s blood sugar levels were “well below normal” when tested, according to the criminal complaint. His eyes were allegedly watery and his speech was slurred.

After telling the trooper he had consumed one beer earlier in the evening, Damman also completed a preliminary breath test, which showed he had a blood alcohol concentration of .02, below the legal limit of .08. The complaint states he also admitted to having smoked marijuana about five hours before the crash.

According to the complaint, Damman later agreed to speak with the trooper, telling him that he recalled seeing the emergency lights and hearing the sirens as well as speeding up and hitting something. He allegedly told the trooper that he was aware that his blood sugar was low and he needed some food, but wasn’t sure why he didn’t stop the vehicle, according to the complaint.

Officers also discovered a glass pipe and a small amount of marijuana in the minivan.

Five restaurant patrons, ages 21 to 29, who were reportedly sitting close to the window where the van collided with the building, were transported to the hospital and treated for injuries.

Each count of criminal vehicular operation carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison or a $3,000 fine, or both, and the charge of fleeing a police officer has a maximum sentence of three years in prison or a $5,000 fine, or both.

Damman has two prior DWI convictions on his record.

— Johanna Holub


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