EAST BETHEL, Minn. (FOX 9) - Newly released video and investigative documents are providing more details into what happened the night an Anoka County law enforcement officer was accused of leaving the scene of an injury accident after a night of drinking.
On Thursday, August 31, 2018 detective Patrick O’Hara was involved in a roll-over crash on Highway 65 in East Bethel. The crash resulted in a lengthy investigation by the Minnesota State Patrol and an internal investigation by the sheriff’s office.
While charges were never filed in the case, O’Hara and two deputies who responded to the crash were disciplined. O’Hara was put on a significant suspension and eventually agreed to a demotion and pay cut.
Videos released to Fox 9, lay out the timeline of what happened the night of the crash and how the state patrol spent seven hours trying to track O’Hara down.
According to body camera footage, deputies who respond to the scene of the roll-over crash realize the driver is their colleague as soon as they check his identification. They fail to initiate a field sobriety test, despite a witness reporting seeing the driver swerving. One of them offers O’Hara a ride home.
A follow-up investigation found that while the deputies did not follow proper protocol, they were not acting to protect O’Hara.
“We were very disappointed with the initial response by our deputies and as soon as it came to light, it was brought to a supervisor and we took the best, corrective action we could,” said Anoka County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Dan Douglas in an interview Sunday. “Mr. O’Hara put them in a bad situation.”
Once it is clear that O’Hara is missing, the sheriff’s office contacts Minnesota State Patrol and requests they take over the investigation. Troopers who respond to the scene are immediately suspicious.
“What squad car was he in,” trooper Craig Isaacson is heard saying over radio traffic. “Because to be honest with you, I think they’re hiding him.”
According to documents released by the Minnesota State Patrol, troopers spent seven hours that night trying to track down the off-duty detective. When he is finally taken into custody, he passes a blood alcohol test.
He will later admit to an Anoka County internal affairs investigator that he consumed eight drinks in a four hour period.
“Credibility and public trust are paramount with our organization,” said Douglas. “Because of the actions of Mr. O’Hara, and to a lesser extent the inaction of the deputies on scene, we will continually work on building and maintaining that trust.”
The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office tells Fox 9 that they declined to charge the law enforcement officer because he provided his information and remained at the scene for 20 minutes. In addition, he was never told to stay at the scene.
A scathing internal investigation says O’Hara “behaved like many criminals do when interacting with law enforcement” and “adversely affected the reputation of our office.”
As a result of the findings of the internal investigation, the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office attempted to terminate O’Hara. In March, the office and the Law Enforcement Labor Services union came to an agreement that allows O’Hara to continue working for the department.
Under the agreement, O’Hara was demoted to the rank of deputy, received a pay cut, and ordered to work courthouse security. He is also required to wear a body camera at all times.
"What happened is absolutely not acceptable in the eyes of the Anoka County Sheriff's Office,” said Douglas. "It certainly does not represent who we are as an organization."
While trooper’s suspicions of a cover-up were never substantiated, two deputies who responded to the scene were suspended for one day without pay. Documents say they were disciplined for violating office policies, neglecting duty, and failing to fully investigate the crash.
In a statement, Sheriff James Stuart said, “While mistakes can be made by individuals, our collective office remains dedicated to service that exceeds expectations and will continue to take corrective actions as cases warrant.”
The office has additionally responded to the incident by adding supplemental training to all licensed staff.
Fox 9 attempted to reach Patrick O’Hara for comment and never heard back. Attempts to reach the deputies who responded to the scene also went unanswered.