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Man charged in fatal Fergus Falls chase

Fergus Crash 4
Authorities block of the area around a crash site in Fergus Falls Friday, Oct. 2. Special to InForum
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FERGUS FALLS, Minn. — Charges have been filed against a Fergus Falls man accused of leading Otter Tail County deputies on a chase last week before causing a crash that killed an elderly couple.

The Otter Tail County Attorney’s Office filed four felony charges, including two counts of criminal vehicular homicide, on Wednesday, Oct. 7, against 30-year-old Cody James Freitag. An arrest warrant was issued the same day.

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Cody James Freitag

The charges stem from an attempt by Otter Tail Sheriff’s deputies Kelly Backman and Michael Wing to arrest Freitag on several outstanding warrants Friday evening in Fergus Falls, prosecutors said in a criminal complaint. The deputies went undercover and posed as an acquaintance of Freitag, with plans to meet him at Casey General Store, 1232 N. Union Ave., authorities said.

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According to court documents:

Freitag hit a squad car while deputies were parked at Casey’s. He then jumped the curb and drove west on Fir Avenue at a high rate of speed. One squad car’s tires went flat, and Wing was unable to continue the pursuit.

Backman continued to follow Freitag until he allegedly blew a stop sign at Union Avenue while driving east on Cavour Avenue in downtown Fergus Falls. That’s where he collided with a 2007 Toyota Camry, which was northbound on Union.

“The force of the impact was so severe that it propelled the two vehicles off of the roadway and into" a nearby parking lot, the complaint said, adding Freitag was allegedly driving at a high rate of speed in the wrong lane when the crash happened.

The crash killed 72-year-old Steven Christianson and his 71-year-old wife Diane at the scene, the complaint said. Freitag was taken to a hospital to be treated for injuries he suffered during the crash.

Medical records revealed Freitag had meth, opiates and amphetamines in his system, the complaint said.

Freitag also was charged with two felony counts of fleeing a police officer. The homicide charges each carry a maximum punishment of 40 years in prison.

He had not been booked into the Otter Tail County Jail as of 4 p.m. Wednesday.

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Freitag has a criminal history that includes theft, driving while impaired and drug convictions in Minnesota, according to court records.

Two deputies have been placed on administrative leave, and the Fergus Falls Police Department is investigating the crash. Law enforcement officials have not identified the deputies placed on leave. The complaint against Freitag noted that officers had activated their emergency lights and sirens.

Charges had not been filed against Backman nor Wing as of Wednesday afternoon, according to Otter Tail County Sheriff Barry Fitzgibbons.

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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