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Hastings, Minn., officer cleared on charges of running suspect down with squad car


HASTINGS, Minn. - Criminal charges accusing a police officer of running his squad car into a suspect who was leaving the scene of a bar fight have been dropped, ending a case that begin three years ago on a routine police call.

A Dakota County judge has ruled that a report filed by a Minnesota State Patrol reconstructionist would not be admissible in court. And without that reconstruction and testimony, Olmstead County's chief assistant attorney James Spencer determined Wednesday that the case against officer Rene Doffing was not strong enough for trial.

It is unclear whether Doffing will return to his job.

Doffing was charged with three felony counts of assault, 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, on March 26, 2007, responded to what looked like a fight beginning outside a bar. When Doffing drove up, Brandon Bruce Johnson, 23, of Bay City, Wis., fled across the street.

Doffing pursued him in his squad car and ended up hitting Johnson, who fell onto the windshield and was thrown forward before landing on his back. He sustained a broken leg in the contact.

Doffing said Johnson accidentally fell on his squad car, but the State Patrol report stated that the officer had run into Johnson.

Doffing has been a member of the Hastings Police Department since 1994.

Chad Richardson is a reporter at The Hastings (Minn.) Star-Gazette, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.