by Jim Boyle
A Zimmerman man has been charged with four counts of criminal vehicular operation and DWI after a crash Monday, Sept. 11, injured five people at a Zimmerman business.
Robert Allen Johnson, 63, of Zimmerman, was the driver of an SUV that crashed into Reliant Systems, 12641 Fremont Ave., at about 1 p.m., according to Sherburne County Sheriff Joel Brott.
Johnson was charged Wednesday, Sept. 13, in Sherburne County 10th District Court in Elk River — on the same day one of the victims died. Daniel Mark Elliott, a 51-year-old owner of a machine shop in Hamburg who was at the Zimmerman shop on business, died shortly after 1 p.m. that day. He had gotten pinned under one of Johnson’s truck tires, according to the criminal complaint.
Another victim, Kim Ann Mills, a 51-year-old Anoka woman, remained in critical condition at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale as of Wednesday afternoon. She suffered internal trauma.
A third victim, Michael Wayne Milano, a 44-year-old Zimmerman man, has been moved out of intensive care and is listed in serious condition there. He suffered seven broken bones in his spine, according to court documents.
Heidi Jo Olerich, a 47-year-old Zimmerman woman, was taken by ground ambulance to Fairview Northland Regional Hospital in Princeton where she was treated and released. Another person also went to the Princeton hospital and was released after tests.
Investigators suspect that alcohol was a factor in the crash, and they got a search warrant to have blood drawn at Fairview Northland Regional Hospital in Princeton. The results showed a blood alcohol content level of .103.
Johnson was charged with a gross misdemeanor and three felonies. The two most serious charges are for criminal vehicular operation causing great bodily harm, which comes with a possibility of five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine. With Elliott’s death, however, at least one of the charges could be elevated.
Johnson, the driver of a 1999 Chevy Tahoe, was traveling east on Fremont when he left the road and slammed into the building, where employees were working and Elliott was there doing business. The truck continued another 30-40 feet through the interior of the business before coming to a stop, Brott stated in a release.
First responders and witnesses removed victims from the debris.
Johnson told investigators he had been at the Zimmerman American Legion from about 11:15 a.m., where he had consumed whiskey, court documents said. He said once he was driving on Fremont Avenue his accelerator stuck and the next thing he knew he was inside the building.
Witnesses saw Johnson and reported his vehicle suddenly accelerated, crossed grass, hopped a curb and crashed into the building.
One witness said he and another person had to move out of the way to avoid being struck.
by Jim Boyle