Charges against Rene Doffing dropped
All criminal charges against Hastings Police Officer Rene Doffing have been dropped. He will get his job back as a patrol officer, and should be back on the streets in his patrol car in two to four weeks.
"He'll be back working in the patrol division in the middle of April, or the first part of May," Hastings Police Chief Mike McMenomy said. "We had a good meeting with Rene on Thursday. It was very positive. Everyone's glad this situation is over, and we're moving on in a positive manner."
Over the next few weeks, Doffing will go through training sessions that he missed out on over the last three years. Once he completes that training and does a few ride-alongs, he'll be back patrolling the streets.
Dakota County Judge Katherine Messerich ruled Friday that the report filed by the Minnesota State Patrol reconstructionist would not be admissible in court.
Without that reconstruction and testimony, Olmstead County's chief assistant attorney James Spencer determined the case against Doffing would not be strong enough to take to trial, which was scheduled to start in May.
The prosecutor decided to drop the charges Wednesday.
"Officer Doffing is thrilled to be back on patrol, serving the citizens of Hastings," said Doffing's attorney, Paul Engh. "He is thankful for all of his friends and colleagues who stood behind him for these last three years."
After hearing testimony from the State Patrol's Sgt. Lance Langford and the defense's witness, Sgt. Gregory Graveson, Messerich ruled, in an eight-page order filed March 18, "This Court concludes that there is insufficient foundational reliability for the testimony of Sgt. Langford and that the testimony should be excluded ... the underlying assumption of Sgt. Langford's opinion are based on speculation. More is required."
She further noted that Langford could not calculate the point of impact of the squad car or the speed at which Doffing was driving it.
It now appears as though Doffing will get his job back as a patrol officer on the force, but that has not been confirmed.
The Star Gazette will continue to update this story today as more information becomes available.
Doffing was charged with three counts of assault (felonies), criminal vehicular injury, and two counts of misconduct by a public officer in connection with the March 26, 2007 incident.
According to the State Patrol's investigation of the incident, Doffing was on patrol at approximately 2:15 a.m., March 26, 2007, when he saw what looked like a fight beginning outside of the Coliseum Sports Bar and Grill on 18th and Vermillion streets.
When Doffing drove up to the group in his squad car, Brandon Bruce Johnson, 23, Bay City, Wis., walked away from the group, according to the complaint. When Doffing told him to stop, Johnson ran across Vermillion Street toward the empty lot on the northeast corner of 18th and Vermillion streets, the complaint said. On his way across the street, Johnson tripped over the center median and was almost struck by a vehicle, according to the complaint.
Doffing's report of the incident stated he pursued Johnson across the street into the empty lot and was attempting to get in front of Johnson with his squad car. He said he was traveling at a speed of around 10 miles per hour when Johnson turned and fell toward the front of the car. Doffing reported Johnson fell into the left front side of his squad's fender and rolled up onto the windshield.
A State Patrol investigation of the incident concluded Doffing was accelerating toward Johnson for approximately 90 feet prior to impact, and that just before hitting him, the squad car turned slightly to the left toward Johnson. After being hit, Johnson fell onto the squad car's windshield, causing it to shatter, and was thrown forward before coming to rest on his back. The State Patrol report said Doffing had to have been traveling at a speed of 20 mph or greater at the time of impact.
Three days later, March 29, in a statement to Lt. Jim Rgnonti, Johnson said he was out with a co-worker the night of the incident. Johnson said the co-worker was "acting up" in the bar and trying to fight people and that he, Johnson, was trying to calm down the co-worker outside when Doffing approached them. Johnson said the last thing he remembers from that night is being outside with his co-worker and trying to calm him down.
After being hit, Johnson was transported to Regina Medical Center and received stitches in his knee. According to the complaint, on June 28, 2007, State Patrol Sgt. Jennifer Trautner spoke to Johnson, who informed her that he had sustained a fracture in a bone in his leg.
Doffing has been a member of the Hastings Police Department since 1994.