Man charged in fatal crash had no valid driver’s license

Published 5:52 pm Tuesday, April 19, 2016


The Austin man charged with criminal vehicular homicide in a fatal crash on Saturday night east of Hollandale did not have a valid driver’s license.

According to online court records, Nathan Paul Brooks, 26, was classified as “inimical to public safety,” after having multiple convictions for driving with a canceled license and drunken driving in Mower County.

Nathan Paul Brooks

Nathan Paul Brooks

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Brooks made his first appearance Tuesday in Freeborn County District Court on one count of criminal vehicular homicide and one count of gross misdemeanor driving after cancellation in connection with the Saturday crash two miles west of the Mower County line that killed Alex Dylan Tapp, 30, of Austin.

Court documents allege Brooks had been drinking alcohol at a bonfire with about eight other people and had reportedly been driving in doughnuts in the nearby pasture where Tapp was struck and killed.

Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office deputies were dispatched to 23595 890th Ave. shortly after 9 p.m. Saturday. Upon arrival, they reportedly found Tapp lying approximately 40 feet from the bonfire area. He had reportedly been struck by a 2000 Chevy Suburban and was pronounced dead at the scene with severe head, facial and chest injuries.

The Suburban was reportedly found near the bonfire with blood on the underside of the running boards and in other places.

Court documents state Tapp was reportedly run over while lying on the ground. Tire tracks reportedly led to marks where the grass had been torn up as if the Suburban had been accelerating rapidly and turning circles.

A witness identified Brooks as having driven the Suburban that killed Tapp, noting Brooks had been “messing around” with it, doing doughnuts and four-wheeling, according to the court file. The witness remembered the victim being around the bonfire when Brooks was driving the Suburban. The witness said after they found Tapp, called 911 and started performing CPR, Brooks reportedly said he thought he had hit a dog.

The witness claimed Brooks left the scene when first responders arrived, noting he had been drinking Captain Morgan.

A separate witness also claimed Brooks had been drinking Captain Morgan.

Deputies reportedly found beer cans, a bottle of Captain Morgan rum and a bottle of tequila in the area of the bonfire.

Deputies reportedly tried locating Brooks, but he was not in the pasture, near the bonfire or in the nearby residence.

Efforts to reach Brooks that night on his cellphone were unsuccessful. He turned himself in on the charges Sunday afternoon.

After he was arrested, Brooks reportedly denied trying to evade law enforcement and that he had been driving carelessly.

He told deputies he had returned to the bonfire after leaving to get some firewood and that when he ran over something his “heart just stopped,” court documents stated. He hoped it had just been a log.

After parking the Suburban near the fire, Brooks said he noticed Tapp was not around, so he ran to the area where he had run over something and found Tapp on the ground with substantial injuries. He reportedly alerted others, and they called 911 and began CPR. He stated when the first responders arrived, he showed some in, and at one point was on the phone with 911 when they conducted CPR.

He said after that he walked into the house on the property, sat in the basement all night in the dark and cried. He reportedly called his wife to come over and said he then shut off his phone.

Brooks admitted to not making contact with law enforcement to give a statement before he left the bonfire area and said he did not hear deputies in the house or he would have talked to them.

He later claimed his phone had died and that he had not shut it off.

Freeborn County Assistant Attorney David Walker argued in court Tuesday that conditional bail be set at 40,000, stating Brooks’ extensive record of DWIs and other traffic offenses showed he does not seem to follow state requirements.

Brooks argued for a lesser bail, saying he understood the severity of the charges but wanted to help his wife keep their house.

He requested a public defender, and Freeborn County District Court Judge Steven Schwab set conditional bail at $40,000, contingent on Brooks not using alcohol or controlled substances, remaining law abiding, comply with random testing and other court requirements.

He is next slated to appear in court May 5.

If convicted of criminal vehicular homicide, Brooks faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. If convicted of gross misdemeanor driving after cancellation, he faces a maximum sentence of one year imprisonment and a $3,000 fine.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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