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Driver arrested after police officer struck, killed on Minnesota U.S. 12

Wayzata Police Officer William Mathews with his wife and son. Mathews was struck and killed Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, while clearing debris from the roadway of eastbound U.S. 12, authorities said. Courtesy of Hennepin County sheriff1 / 3
Beth Ilene Freeman, 54, of Mound, was booked into the Hennepin County Jail on Friday, Sept. 8, on suspicion of criminal vehicular operation in the death of Wayzata police officer William Mathews. Courtesy of Hennepin County sheriff2 / 3
U.S. Highway 12 was closed both ways near Minnesota 101 / Central Avenue in Wayzata following a crash that led to a Wayzata police officer being killed Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, as shown on a Minnesota Department of Transportation traffic camera. (Courtesy of MnDOT)3 / 3

WAYZATA, Minn. -- A Wayzata police officer was struck and killed Friday afternoon while clearing debris from the roadway of U.S. 12, authorities said.

Officer William Allen Mathews, 47, was responding to a call around 12:30 p.m. about potential traffic hazards on the highway when a Nissan Murano struck him in the eastbound lanes. He was rushed to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale, where he died, Wayzata Police Chief Mike Risvold said.

“It’s with a heavy heart that I announce the death of one of Wayzata’s finest,” Risvold said at a late-afternoon news conference at police headquarters in the Lake Minnetonka community.

The driver, Beth Ilene Freeman, 54, of Mound, stopped after the crash and was cooperating with investigators, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said. She was booked into the Hennepin County Jail early Friday evening on suspicion of criminal vehicular operation.

Col. Matt Langer, chief of the Minnesota State Patrol, said he didn’t know whether alcohol or distracted driving played a role in the crash.

Authorities declined to say much about the investigation because the case remains active.

Mathews was married and had a 7-year-old son, Risvold said. He had been with the department for nine years.

“He was one of the good ones,” Risvold said.

Freeman has a minor criminal record dating back to 1987.

In addition to several traffic violations — including driving after license cancellation, “inimical” to public safety — Freeman has also been convicted of check forgery, theft, possession of controlled substances and massage without a license.

Mathews was involved in law enforcement even before becoming a licensed officer. A graduate of Pine Island High School, he earned a law enforcement degree from Winona State University and served with the Winona police as a reserve officer and the Rochester police as an intern.

After becoming a licensed peace officer in 1998, he worked for the Zumbrota Police Department as well as part time with the Olmsted and Goodhue county sheriff’s offices.

Mathews began working with the Wayzata Police Department in October 2008, serving as a firearms instructor, field training officer and reserve coordinator.

His death was first announced by new Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who asked for a moment of silence before being sworn in during a Friday afternoon ceremony. Arradondo was confirmed as police chief last month, after former Chief Janee Harteau was asked to resign days after an officer fatally shot an Australian woman who had made a 911 call in July to report a possible assault.

U.S. 12 at Hennepin County Road 101/Central Avenue in Wayzata was shut down in both directions after the collision.

The Hennepin County sheriff’s office and the Minnesota State Patrol are investigating the case. They ask that any witnesses to the crash call 1-888-988-TIPS (8477).

The last time an officer died in the line of duty in Minnesota was in October 2015, when Aitkin County sheriff’s Investigator Steven Sandberg was shot at St. Cloud Hospital, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. Sandberg was guarding a hospitalized domestic violence suspect, who seized the officer’s handgun and shot him. Hospital security officers used a stun gun to subdue the suspect, who later died.

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