Toxicology tests show that the attorney suspected of using his cellphone when he fatally hit a runner in a St. Paul crosswalk did not have any illegal substances in his system, police said Thursday.
The results eliminate drunk or drugged driving as a factor in the crash on Feb. 22, when Peter Berge ran over 35-year-old Scott Spoo on Mississippi River Boulevard at Dayton Avenue. Police ruled out earlier that Berge was under the influence of alcohol.
“Investigators do not believe illegal drugs or alcohol were involved,” said police spokesman Steve Linders. “The exact cause [of the crash] remains under investigation.” Berge has not been charged.
Linders said investigators are not looking into whether legal substances such as prescription drugs factored into the crash.
About a week after hitting Spoo, Berge was found to have an aggressive form of brain cancer, according to his friend Mike Salovich. He has told police that “his condition was the cause of his impaired behavior,” the latest court filing read.
Berge’s attorney, Charles Hawkins, said Thursday that his client is “sick.”
“I’m not prepared to discuss his medical condition,” Hawkins said. “That’s a personal matter.”
The initial suspicion of Berge being under the influence of drugs or alcohol came from a police officer at the scene who has “extensive experience in DWI enforcement and drug impairment,” court records read.
The officer’s application for the court to approve a blood draw from Berge noted that the driver had “eyelid, body and leg tremors” soon after the crash.
Berge failed the standard eye test for sobriety, nearly fell three times, failed another element of the “walk and turn” test and almost fell when directed to stand on one leg, the officer wrote in the court document. “I terminated the test for his own safety,” the officer said.
The officer said he examined Berge’s mouth and saw a white residue on his tongue with a green tint that suggested “marijuana residue.” However, Berge said, he couldn’t recall the last time he smoked marijuana.
In court documents filed last week, police said Berge was actively using his cellphone for nearly 23 minutes, an uninterrupted span of time that includes the moment of impact, according to a forensic search of his phone cited in a court document.
In the search warrant affidavit seeking permission to crack open Peter Berge’s Facebook account, police said they have data from AT&T that show “an active data session” from just past 4:03 p.m. until shortly after 4:26 p.m. on the phone of the prominent attorney.
Berge hit Spoo at 4:22 p.m., within that phone-use time frame, according to the court filing’s citing of Ramsey County emergency dispatch records.
“There are other … things to cause that to occur without him being on that phone,” Hawkins said of the alleged active data session. “Fair reporting would have included the fact that there are alternative reasons for there to be an open session other than him being on the phone or using the phone.”
Last week’s search warrant application, filed in Ramsey County District Court, includes a motorist who reported driving behind Berge’s BMW on Mississippi River Boulevard and seeing him “driving with his cellphone in his hand ... Berge kept looking down at his phone. The witness said Berge was varying his speed including rapidly accelerating and swerving into oncoming traffic.”
Judge Richard Kyle Jr. granted police permission to go into Berge’s Facebook account. They have yet to say what they found.
Staff reporter Chao Xiong contributed to this report.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482