by Jim Boyle
Austin Copsey, a 37-year-old Otsego man, was charged July 19 with criminal vehicular homicide for his involvement in the July 16 all-terrain vehicle crash that claimed the life of 12-year-old Jesse Hooper, of Otsego.
He faces up to 10 years in prison or a $20,000 fine or both for allegedly operating a vehicle with negligence and under the influence of alcohol.
Deputies were called at 10:08 p.m. that night to the crash of an off-road ATV at 14146 78th St. NE in Otsego.
Based on evidence recovered from the scene and statements taken at the scene, it was determined that the ATV was traveling at a high rate of speed westbound on 78th Street Northeast before entering the north side ditch, according to the initial complaint filed by the Wright County Sheriff’s Office. The ATV appeared to have rolled over after entering the ditch, according to the Wright County Sheriff’s report.
Deputies located a Polaris side-by-side ATV in the ditch. A section of mailboxes at the crash location had been broken with pieces strewn all over 78th Street Northeast, according to the criminal complaint filed in Wright County District Court.
Law enforcement determined the ATV left the roadway and impacted a group of mailboxes attached to a single post cemented into the ground and the post was located approximately 50 yards to the west in the middle of the road, the complaint stated.
A witness who was interviewed reportedly looked at his security camera when he heard the crash and observed the ATV rolling multiple times in the ditch.
Hooper, who was determined to be a passenger, was found laying in the ditch. He was pronounced deceased at the scene from injuries sustained in the ATV crash.
The owner and driver of the ATV was present at the scene of the crash and was identified as Copsey. He had a visible wound on his head, his speech was slurred, and a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage was coming from his breath, according to the complaint.
Authorities believe Copsey had been at a neighborhood party and was driving with Hooper to pick up his daughter to bring her to the party.
The defendant reportedly could not recall the events of what happened. The complaint stated he went back and forth telling a deputy he was driving but other times saying he was not.
A preliminary breath test showed him to have an alcohol concentration of 0.19, which is more than twice the legal limit.
Copsey was taken to Mercy Hospital for treatment of his injuries.
A search warrant was obtained based on probable cause that the defendant caused a motor vehicle crash by driving negligently and under the influence of alcohol resulting in Hooper’s death. The blood sample has been sent to a crime lab for analysis, the complaint said.
Bail was set at his hearing on July 19 at $50,000 w/o conditions and $20,000 w/conditions. Copsey’s next hearing is on Aug. 5.