Charges added to Beartown firefighter in fatal accident

ANOKA, Minnesota — A Beartown firefighter involved in a fatal Minnesota traffic accident is facing eight additional charges due to the results of his toxicology report.

Michael Allen Johnson, 28, was driving fellow Beartown Firefighters to the Box Canyon wildfire in Utah on Aug. 27, 2016, when he fell asleep at the wheel, causing the special Beartown fire truck to hit the I 35W median near Blaine, Minnesota and roll, killing James Shelifoe, 23, and Alan Swartz, 25, and injuring himself and the six remaining passengers.

Johnson was originally charged with two counts of criminal vehicular homicide with gross negligence, but now faces those felonies and eight new ones because his toxicology report came back positive for cocaine and benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of cocaine.

“We amended the criminal complaint,” said Anoka County Attorney’s Office Community Relations Coordinator Elizabeth Mohr, to take into account the results of a toxicology report analyzed by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

After the crash, Johnson had admitted to authorities that he used cocaine and other drugs in the days before the crash.

In addition to the two original counts, Johnson is now charged with two counts of criminal vehicular homicide with negligence and a controlled substance in his system. All four are punishable by serving up to 10 years in prison and/or paying fines of $6,000 to $20,000.

Johnson also faces six counts of criminal vehicular operation causing great bodily harm with a controlled substance in his system: one for each of the injured firefighters, namely Joseph A. Jossens, David R. Varline, Ross J. Jaukkuri, Gavin C. Loonsfoot, Shashywin D. Sandman-Shelifoe and Tyler J. Tolonen. Each of those charges carry a maximum penalty of three years in prison and/or fines of $3,000 to $10,000.

Johnson has been free on bail contingent on his returning to Minnesota for court appearances and submitting to random drug tests while home in Michigan.

He is due in court next at 9:30 a.m. on April 4 for procedural hearing to review evidence and motions pertaining to the case.

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