Four felony counts, including two for fleeing a peace officer resulted in death, and two for criminal vehicular homicide, were filed Wednesday in Seventh District Court against Cody James Freitag.
Following investigations of the Oct. 2 crash which left two people dead and the defendant badly injured, evidence was submitted to the court by the Minnesota State Patrol and the Fergus Falls Police Department.
The 30-year-old Fergus Falls man who was wanted on warrants involving felony drug crimes, felony theft, felony fleeing, domestic assault and obstructing the legal process, was taken into custody after his 2007 Chrysler Town and Country van ran a stop sign at the intersection of Cavour Avenue and North Union Avenue while being pursued by Otter Tail County deputies. Freitag’s vehicle crashed into a northbound 2007 Toyota Camry, killing Steve and Diane Christianson of Fergus Falls. Freitag was seriously injured in the collision.
According to court records, the deputies who were in pursuit of Freitag, were involved in an undercover operation aimed at taking him into custody.
The two deputies, Kelly Backman and Michael Wing, had attempted to apprehend Freitag at Casey’s General Store at 1232 N. Union. Freitag fled west on Fir Avenue with the deputies in pursuit.
During the chase, Wing’s squad car was disabled after striking a curb. Backman continued the pursuit down North Tower Road to Cavour where Freitag turned east at high speed.
A review of the squad video showed that emergency lights and siren were activated during the pursuit.
After striking the Christianson’s car both vehicles were propelled into a parking lot located at 218 West Cavour. Minnesota State Trooper Evan Malmstrom arrived to find the defendant outside his van holding his leg. According to Malmstrom, Freitag asked several times “what have I done?”
State Patrol Sgt. Rod Eischens conducted a reconstruction of the accident. His initial conclusion was that Freitag had entered the intersection at a high rate of speed, neglected to stop at the posted stop sign and yield right of way to the Camry.
A blood sample was taken from Freitag at Lake Region Healthcare before he was transported to Sanford Health in Fargo with serious but nonlife-threatening injuries.
Lab results revealed the presence of methamphetamine, opiates and amphetamines.
Fergus Falls detective, Sgt. Andrew Miller attempted to interview Freitag at Sanford. Freitag told Miller “I f----- up, man ... I hurt people,” before invoking his right to counsel.
Detective Lucas Delaney obtained a search warrant for Freitag’s vehicle and officers found numerous pieces of drug paraphernalia, including pipes, with residue, a torch and plastic bags containing a white powdery substance that field-tested positive as methamphetamine.
A spokesman for the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Office said Monday that the two deputies involved are on administrative leave. Now that the State Patrol and Fergus Falls police investigations have been completed, the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Office will conduct an administrative investigation.
Once all investigations are completed the case will be turned over to the Otter Tail County Attorney’s Office for prosecution.
Questions have been raised by the general public about the safety of pursuing Freitag in the city limits of Fergus Falls by the undercover deputies. Otter Tail County Sheriff Barry Fitzgibbons has been contacted for a statement by Daily Journal Media. To date, no law enforcement officer involved in the investigation has commented.
The fleeing charges against Freitag each hold a penalty of imprisonment of not more than 40 years along with an $80,000 fine. The criminal vehicular charges can both result in a prison sentence of not more than 10 years and a fine not to exceed $20,000.
Criminal vehicular homicide does not constitute murder or manslaughter. It is a charge which stems from operating a vehicle in a grossly negligent manner.