The unlicensed driver who fatally hit a Wayzata police officer on a highway late last week was under the influence of drugs and using her cellphone in the moments leading up to the crash, according to charges filed Monday.
Beth I. Freeman, 54, of Mound, was charged in Hennepin County District Court with two counts of criminal vehicular homicide in connection with the death of officer William Mathews, who was removing debris from the eastbound side of Hwy. 12 Friday afternoon when he was run over.
"What have I done?" Freeman said upon getting out of her car with Mathews pinned under one of the tires, according to one witness account in the criminal complaint.
Investigators also unearthed a video recording posted on Instagram that shows Freeman still at the scene and saying, "I just looked up and he was there," the complaint continued. A law enforcement officer gave Freeman a field sobriety test about 75 minutes after the crash and determined that "the influence of a controlled substance was evident," the criminal complaint read. "Freeman had an elevated pulse, constricted pupils and difficulty counting backwards."
The charging document did not address what drug that authorities suspect was involved, but cocaine and drug paraphernalia were found in the SUV she was driving.
Also, Freeman admitted to law enforcement at the scene to talking on her phone and receiving text messages shortly before the crash, the complaint continued. Examination of the phone by investigators confirmed what Freeman acknowledged and that "the messages had been read in the time frame immediately prior to her hitting" Mathews, the charges read. Freeman was jailed soon after the collision and is expected to make her first court appearance at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, where prosecutors said they will request bail to be set at $500,000. Court records do not indicate that she has legal representation.
Serious driving offenses
Freeman's license had been canceled at the time of the collision because of her poor driving record spanning decades, a state Department of Public Safety spokeswoman said.
Freeman has three convictions for drunken driving and another for driving under the influence of illicit drugs, according to a copy of her driving record obtained from the state Monday. The state has taken away her driving privileges at least three times, most recently in October.
Her driving record also includes convictions for aggravated and careless driving, and driving without a license at least twice. Freeman has also racked up at least six convictions for drug possession. At the time of Friday's crash, she was serving three years' probation for a 2016 drug conviction.
Two motorists who saw the crash helped piece together some of what happened:
One witness saw Mathews' SUV on the right shoulder of Hwy. 12 at Central Avenue. The squad's emergency lights were flashing as the officer rose from a bent-over position in a lane of traffic and was sent airborne upon impact.
The witness, traveling behind Freeman, estimated her speed at 55 to 60 miles per hour. He saw no evidence she braked or tried to avoid the officer.
Freeman got out of her vehicle while one wheel was on the officer's body. The witness told her to get back in her vehicle and "back off of the victim," the complaint read.
A second motorist estimated Freeman was going 65 mph, but "there was plenty of time to react to the victim's flashing lights and provide the officer an extra lane of space," the charges continued.
Mathews joins more than 240 law enforcement officers who have been killed in the line of duty in Minnesota, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a national nonprofit group that keeps records of fallen officers.
Also Monday, the public was invited to attend Mathews funeral, which is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at Wayzata Free Church, 705 Hwy. 101 N. in his hometown of Plymouth. Visitation will be Wednesday from 3 to 8 p.m. at the church. Interment will follow the funeral at Summit Park Cemetery in Wayzata.
An "Officer Bill Mathews Memorial Fund" has been established at the Wells Fargo Bank branch at 900 E. Wayzata Blvd. in Wayzata.
Mathews had been with the Wayzata Police Department for nine years, was married and had a 7-year-old boy.
His law enforcement career includes being an intern with the Rochester Police Department, a reserve officer for the Winona Police Department, an officer in Zumbrota, as well as part-time work for sheriff's offices in Olmsted and Goodhue counties.
During his time with the Wayzata Police Department, Mathews was a firearms instructor, a field training officer, and a reserve coordinator.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482