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Elk Grove Village mayor's son had beer before crash
By Sheila Ahern | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 6/25/2010 12:00 AM

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Elk Grove Mayor Craig Johnson said his son consumed "some beers" at the village's RotaryFest hours before crashing into three parked cars and fleeing the scene early Friday morning.

Two witnesses also described Craig Johnson Jr. as seeming "disoriented" after his accident at 2:30 a.m. at the Terrace apartments.

Shortly after that, a police officer said he smelled alcohol on the 22-year-old's breath.

But Johnson Jr. was never given a sobriety test, because Elk Grove police officers said they did not see any evidence he was impaired when they talked to him after the accident.

Johnson Jr. was issued two traffic citations.

Thursday afternoon, Elk Grove Village officials released the police report and witness statements concerning the June 18 accident outside the apartment complex on the 900 block of Ridge Square. Mayor Johnson also released a statement, saying his son was not impaired at the time of the accident, but expressing disappointment and embarrassment that Johnson Jr. left the scene of it.

After releasing the documents Thursday, neither Police Chief Stephen Schmidt nor Deputy Chief Mike Kirkpatrick returned phone calls.

According to the police report, it was about 2:30 a.m. Friday when Johnson drove his Chevrolet Colorado pickup through the Terrace apartments parking lot, crashing into three parked cars. No one was injured.

The mayor said his son had just dropped off his girlfriend at her apartment after an evening at the Johnsons' house.

Resident Samantha Pusateri, 23, was on the phone with a friend when she heard the crash right outside her bedroom window. Cell phone still in hand, she dashed outside where she said a "disoriented" Johnson was walking around smoking a cigarette, his truck halfway onto the grass.

"He didn't seem worried that he just hit all those cars," said Pusateri, who also thought his eyes looked red.

She asked him if he was OK and if anyone else was hurt.

"He told me no one was in the other cars, and he was fine," said Pusateri, adding he explained the accident by saying his accelerator had been "acting up."

She said he asked Pusateri if she had called the police, to which she replied no.

Johnson Jr. told her he would make the call. Instead, she said, he jumped back into his pickup truck, circled the apartment's parking lot and sped away with his engine smoking and the front bumper of his truck dragging on the pavement. Pusateri called 911.

Pusateri said she told police she never got close enough to Johnson Jr. to smell alcohol or not, but told them he seemed "disoriented."

On Saturday, Mayor Johnson had referred to brake trouble his son was having with his truck, saying that might have contributed to the crash.

On Thursday night, the mayor said he doesn't know why his son told Pusateri about the accelerator, saying it was the brakes giving him trouble.

In addition, Johnson Jr. told police he fled the scene without reporting the crash because he didn't have his cell phone, but witnesses report that he "picked up his phone" after the accident.

Johnson Jr.'s truck was severely damaged and both his air bags were deployed, according to police photos. The three cars he hit didn't fare much better and one owner's insurer estimated damage at $6,000.

Police traced a license plate left behind in the parking lot to Johnson Jr., who lives at his father's home. When they arrived, police found his truck parked in a neighbor's driveway with the hazard lights flashing.

Craig Johnson Sr. said Thursday he first became aware of the accident when he heard police talking to his son around 3 a.m.

Police said Johnson Jr. admitted causing the accident. They asked why he fled and why he didn't call police when he got home.

"He stated he was in a state of shock and did not think about calling police," when he got home, the report states.

Father said he drove his son to the police station at about 3:30 a.m., where the son was questioned further.

According to the report, a police officer smelled alcohol during the interview. Police say Johnson Jr. told them he had been drinking beer at RotaryFest early Thursday evening. Mayor Johnson stated that Johnson Jr. and his girlfriend came to their house around 10:30 p.m., and that there was no alcohol in the house.

"While speaking to Johnson Jr., I did smell the odor of an alcoholic beverage but I did not notice slurred speech, red bloodshot glassy eyes or any other signs of impairment," the officer wrote in his report.

Police say that it was about 5 a.m. when Johnson Jr. was read his Miranda rights and ticketed for leaving the scene of an accident and failure to give information after striking a parked vehicle. He was freed on $75 bond.

On Monday, Schmidt said there were no aggravating factors that would have prompted a sobriety test.

"We don't ... do sobriety tests unless there's evidence there," he said.

Mayor Johnson released a two-page statement Thursday, saying he wanted to respond to "stories circulating" that his son was intoxicated at the time of the accident.

"I want everyone to know that my son was at my home around 10:30 p.m. on the evening of the accident, over four hours before the accident, and there was no alcohol present in my home during that time," the mayor said in the statement.

"As a father and a parent, I am humbled by my son's accident and embarrassed by his actions."

Other than telling police at his house Friday morning to "do what they have to do," Johnson said he didn't talk to the officers, the police chief, deputy police chief or any other village official June 18 about the arrest.

"Frankly, I was so ashamed by my son's actions and so embarrassed by my son's arrest that I could not have spoken with anybody about this," Johnson said in his statement.

Earlier: Cop smelled alcohol but didn't notice impairment