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Man busted for suspected huffing and driving

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Published on Jun 14, 2012

Lethargic, disoriented and behind the wheel: That's how Golden Valley Police Sgt. Steve Johnson found David Steven Anderson when he approached Anderson's car the evening of April 13. The car had run off the road at the onramp to southbound Highway 100 at Highway 55.

"[He] seemed very tired and sleepy, unaware of his surroundings," said Johnson.

Johnson says the 41-year-old Mound man did not smell of alcohol, nor did he have any containers of alcohol in the car. However, Johnson found something else that indicated Anderson was likely not suffering from a medical condition.

"I noticed that there was an aerosol can between his legs sitting down by the steering wheel with a straw coming out of it," said Johnson.

Inside the can was dusting spray, used to clean computer keyboards and other products. Using 25 years of experience in law enforcement, Sgt. Johnson determined it was possible Anderson was inhaling from that can while driving.

A blood test showed Anderson had freon in his system. Freon is found in aerosol dusting sprays.

"If you continually huff a product and it's continually going into your system, ultimately it will shut your system down to the point where you will pass out and can no longer operate or control that vehicle," said Johnson.

Anderson was charged with driving under the influence of a hazardous substance.

The next day, Sgt. Johnson was in his personal car, driving along County Road 15 in Orono. He noticed squad cars and an ambulance off to the side of the road. He then saw a familiar car and a familiar figure.

"I immediately recognized that person as the same person that I had just dealt with the night before," says Johnson.

Orono police told Sgt. Johnson that Anderson had run his car off the road. They found cans of dusting spray wedged in the seat. Charges are pending while Orono police await toxicology results.

Just this week, Plymouth police called Sgt. Johnson and asked him about Anderson's arrest in April. It turns out, just this past Tuesday police found Anderson passed out behind the wheel at Highway 15 and Carlson Parkway.

Johnson says cans of huffing material were found in the car then, too. Initially, Plymouth police issued Anderson a citation for driving after cancellation of a license and driving the wrong way on a one way street. However, after speaking with Sgt. Johnson, Plymouth police have referred the case to the city attorney to see if Anderson should be charged instead.

That's three possible cases of driving while under the influence of a chemical.

However, even though Anderson could face multiple DWI charges, he can't receive stiffer penalties. State law says subsequent charges are enhanced only if you have a prior conviction on your record. Because he hasn't even gone through court for the Golden Valley case yet, his record is considered clean.

Anderson does have two convictions from the early 1990s for driving under the influence of alcohol. However, law only considers DWI convictions from the last ten years when determining enhanced charges.

Sgt. Johnson says the prosecutor in the Golden Valley case is aware of the two incidents that followed the April 13 arrest. Whether that will influence the case or a possible penalty, he is not certain. He says he hopes something changes to keep innocent bystanders from falling victim to repeat negligent drivers.

"It would be great if we could learn from experiences right now," says Johnson, "and not wait for that tragic event where all of a sudden people feel we need to change something."


Renee Banot

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