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Svea teen gets 90 days of detention, probation for crashing into Willmar business, injuring girl

WILLMAR -- An 18-year-old from Svea was sentenced Thursday to 90 days at Prairie Lakes Youth Programs, probation until his 19th birthday and 200 hours of community service on a felony charge of criminal vehicular homicide or operation for the May 2 crash that injured a passenger, seriously damaged Accessories 4 Trucks and caused oil to spill into Willmar's storm sewer.

Joel David Peterson was also ordered to pay $2,500 in restitution. Judge David L. Mennis also ordered that 30 additional days be provided for the victim to provide loss of business income information to the court. The juvenile sentence was handed down in Kandiyohi County District Court. Three lesser charges were dismissed. The charges include driving while impaired, careless driving and not wearing a seat belt. Peterson was also ordered to attend a MADD impact panel.

Felony matters against 16- and 17-year-olds are public record.

The charges were filed after a Willmar police officer was dispatched around 1:15 a.m. May 2 on an alarm call to Accessories 4 Trucks, 1813 First St. S. The officer saw damage to pickup toppers stacked nearby and there was a vehicle parked outside of a battered garage door.

A citizen informed the officer that he had seen a younger male in a red sweatshirt running from the scene. The officer looked into the building and saw a van crashed through the garage door, damaged walls, spilled oil and footprints leading out the door.

The tracks left by the vehicle indicated it was westbound on 19th Avenue and left the roadway about 240 feet before coming to rest in the garage bay. It struck a sign, passed over a grassy area and parking lot and went through the garage and into the wall opposite the garage door.

Peterson returned to the scene, was limping, covered with oil and was bleeding from his nose. He told the officer he was driving, hit something in the road and crashed into the building. He said there were four others in the vehicle, and that some of the others were huffing cleaner out of a can to get high. He denied huffing the cleaner.

Three juvenile passengers, including a girl who suffered a broken leg, told officers that Peterson was huffing the cleaner. One of the girls told officers she tried to grab Peterson's arm or the can out of his hand and that when she did this the vehicle swerved to the right and went off the road.

Peterson submitted to a blood test after the crash. The sample tested positive for difluoroethane, a chemical found in electronics cleaning and consumer aerosol products.

Some of the spilled oil reached the city's storm sewers and was contained by booms placed in a nearby county ditch. The day after the crash, shop officials estimated the damage to the building at more than $200,000.

An affidavit of restitution filed in the case claims $36,552.09 in losses, including damage to the building and inventory and insurance deductibles, which totaled $2,500.