PLYMOUTH, Minn. (KMSP) - A semi-truck driver is now charged with causing a deadly, chain-reaction crash on Highway 169 last year that took the life of a 22-year-old woman.
Jon Lindeman is charged with three counts, the most severe of which is a gross misdemeanor for reckless driving, which could send him to prison for up to a year.
Karen Altman has been trying to get justice for her daughter, Katie Burkey, for more than a year. The charges are far less than what she imaged for a crime she believes is akin to murder.
“I will be at every single, solitary court appearance that this man is at,” Altman said. “Absolutely.”
The deadly crash occurred during the evening rush hour on September 6, 2017 on Hwy. 169 near Rockford Road. According to the charges, Lindeman was driving a large-side dump truck nearly 10,000 pounds over its gross registered weight, which affected his “braking distance for stopping.” At least one witness reported that Lindeman “wasn’t paying attention” to the road. A Minnesota State Patrol report determined his speed was at least 59 miles per hour.
The investigation also found that Burkey and the other vehicles involved were stopped for a full five seconds before the deadly crash and there were no pre-impact skid marks.
The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office declined to file criminal vehicular homicide charges that might send Lindeman away to prison for several years, which means prosecutors were unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the trucker’s actions were “grossly negligent”—an extremely high threshold for a jury.
"A trucker has higher responsibility,” said Nancy Johnson, the legislative director of Minnesotans for Safe Driving. “He’s driving a very heavy vehicle that does a lot of damage.”
Johnson agrees the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office got this one wrong and believes it the crash was a felony-level offense.
Last month, on the one-year anniversary of the fatal crash, Katie’s family took their outrage to the Capitol in hopes of changing the law defining “grossly negligent” behavior behind the wheel, so the next shattered family does not have to have their heart ripped out by the criminal justice system.
“I don’t know how his life may have been disrupted, but our family’s life will forever be changed,” Altman said.