Suspected drunken driver charged for hitting pedestrian in St. Paul

Photo Courtesy: Ramsey County Jail

A suspected drunken driver who allegedly struck a woman crossing the street in St. Paul has been charged with two counts of criminal vehicular operation.

Gary Thomas Schmalz, 63, of Greenville, South Carolina had his first appearance in Ramsey County Court on Friday.

According to the criminal complaint, Wednesday night, St. Paul police responded to a report of a pedestrian hit by a car at the intersection of Robert Street and Fillmore Street.

When officers arrived, medics were treating the woman, who was lying in the left lane of northbound Robert Street. Schmalz's car was also in the same lane near the victim. Police learned the victim was walking home from her night-shift at Comcast, which is just east of the intersection.

Schmalz told police he was making a left turn from Fillmore onto Robert when he hit the pedestrian. He said he didn't see her because of her dark clothing and that he didn't call 911 because he was distraught and others were already helping.

Emergency crews took the woman to Regions Hospital. The crash fractured her skull and caused bleeding on the brain. Family members told police the woman suffered permanent brain damage would be in intensive care for a few weeks.

Police noted Schmalz smelled like alcohol and he told them he had several beers that night, including one about a half hour before the crash. He failed field sobriety tests and blew 0.139, which is more than the legal limit. Officers also found multiple opened and unopened bottles and cans of beer and alcohol inside his car. In a later interview with police, he said he had also smoked a small amount of marijuana earlier that day.

Two witnesses told police Schmalz had strange behavior immediately after the crash. One witness said Schmalz almost appeared "happy" after the crash and told her he wouldn't move his car for the medics to get through. Another witness said when she asked him if he called 911, he chuckled and said no.

Police are in the process of collecting surveillance video from a bank near the intersection.