Charges: Zimmerman Man Had Been Drinking Before Crashing Into Business, Injuring 5

September 13, 2017 02:50 PM

The man who drove an SUV into a Zimmerman business Monday said he had at least two drinks before leaving a local bar and that his accelerator stuck, according to charges filed Wednesday in Sherburne County.

The crash left five people injured, two of whom remain on life support. 

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Sixty-three-year-old Robert Allen Johnson has been charged with four counts of criminal vehicular operation while under the influence of alcohol and one count of DWI.

RELATED: Zimmerman Man Arrested After SUV Crashes into Business

When law enforcement arrived on the scene at Reliant Systems on Fremont Avenue in Zimmerman, they found a hole in the west wall of the business and a red Chevy Tahoe about 30 to 40 feet inside the building. Johnson was still in the driver's seat after a man inside the building told him to stay there, the complaint says. A mostly-empty bottle of whiskey was later found in the center console.

A breathalyzer sample taken at the scene indicated Johnson's blood-alcohol content was .103. A blood test was pending.

Two of the crash victims, 51-year-old Daniel Mark Elliott of Hamburg and 51-year-old Kim Ann Mills of Anoka, are on life support, according to the criminal complaint. 

Hamburg, who was found with his head underneath the SUV's front driver's side tire, was not expected to survive, North Memorial hospital staff told investigators. Doctors removed Mills' spleen and part of her pancreas, and she sustained internal trauma, the complaint says.

RELATED: SUV Slams into Zimmerman Business, Injuring at Least 4

Johnson told investigators he had consumed at least two alcoholic beverages at the American Legion prior to the crash. He said he had been driving on Fremont when the accelerator stuck, and that he didn't remember anything until he was inside the building, according to the complaint.

Staff at the American Legion said Johnson arrived about 11:15 a.m. and had three short glasses of whiskey and 7-Up.

Witnesses reported seeing Johnson's vehicle accelerate across the grass and jump a curb before crashing into the business shortly after 1 p.m. Two witnesses reported having to jump out of the way to avoid being hit. 

A witness in the back of the building at the time of the crash said he ran to the vehicle after the crash, and that Johnson's foot still had the accelerator to the floor, according to the complaint. Johnson told the witness "you're lucky," before the witness reached in, shut off the vehicle and told Johnson to remain in the vehicle.

An investigator at the scene who pushed down on the accelerator and brake reported both appeared to be working properly, the complaint says. 

Another victim, 44-year-old Michael Wayne Milano of Zimmerman, suffered broken bones in his spine, as well as facial and rib fractures, according to the complaint. A North Memorial spokesperson said he is in serious condition.

Randy Olerich, listed on the website as a co-founder of Reliant Systems, posted on Facebook Monday that his wife, identified in a press release as 47-year-old Heidi Jo Olerich, was taken along with an injured assistant to a local hospital in Princeton, where they were treated and released.

Johnson remains in Sherburne County Jail. He faces a maximum 14 years and 90 days in prison and/or $34,000 in fines.

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Michael Oakes

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