Warrant Contains Evidence Officer Drank For Hours Before Crash

The Hartford Courant

Jeanne Johnson called 911 seconds after hearing the thud of a crash outside her Windsor Locks home and spotting a man stumbling outside his crumpled car. As she watched, the man reached back into the car and grabbed an object.

"He threw something in my yard; I think he might be drunk,'' Johnson told the police dispatcher during the call, recorded at 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 30.

The man was off-duty police Officer Michael Koistinen, who was driving the car that had just struck and killed 15-year-old Henry Dang and who was charged Thursday with first-degree manslaughter, among other charges, in connection with the crash.

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Minutes after the call, Johnson repeated her observations to one of three responding officers –Windsor Locks Sgt. Robert Koistinen, the father of the man Johnson was watching from her window.

According to the arrest warrant released Friday, investigators eventually found the object – a glass with the word "Budweiser" on it and traces of beer still in it.

But that was four hours later. In that time, according to the warrant, Koistinen was never given a test to determine how much alcohol he drank that night. One investigator later told state police that if he had known of the beer glass earlier, he would have pressed to get a blood or urine sample from Koistinen. Robert Koistinen would tell investigators he searched the yard but couldn't find anything.

Details about the 911 call and beer glass are contained in the 21-page warrant that also includes witnesses' accounts to state police that Michael Koistinen spent about six hours drinking beer, tequila and whiskey before the crash.

Also in the warrant:

• Instead of providing medical assistance to the injured boy, Koistinen stood by his car and called the Windsor Locks police, telling the dispatcher "he didn't know what was going on."

• The state police accident reconstruction team estimated that Koistinen was traveling at least 73 mph, more than twice the posted speed limit, when he hit Henry.

• Investigators believe Robert Koistinen drove his son from the scene to the police station multiple times before returning him to the scene just in time for a Suffield ambulance to take him to Johnson Memorial Medical Center in Stafford Springs. At the hospital, Robert Koistinen refused to allow police to interview his son or take a blood sample.

• Minutes before the crash, at the intersection of West and Spring streets in Windsor Locks, Koistinen was on his cellphone talking to a friend about going to a house party on Bellaire Circle.

• Suffield volunteer ambulance member Donald Miner, who also is a member of that town's police commission, met with Michael Koistinen in his hospital room and asked him if he had been drinking. When Koistinen told him he had not been, Miner advised him to take a blood test to prove it. Koistinen again refused, citing a fear of needles. When Miner had first arrived at the accident scene the first thing Michael Koistinen said to him was "I bet you're glad you didn't hire me." Miner had apparently interviewed him to be a police officer in Suffield.

• Hospital personnel did obtain a urine sample from Michael Koistinen while he was being examined, but he refused to allow them to do toxicology tests on it. The hospital kept the sample for two days but because no police agency asked for it, hospital officials threw it out. The next day, state police obtained a search warrant for Koistinen's medical records.

"This appears to be a story of a constant stream of alcohol consumption coupled with a high rate of speed, which is certainly a prescription for disaster, which is what happened here,'' said attorney James Bartolini, who represents Henry's family. "Unfortunately we will never have a definite answer chemically as to Michael Koistinen's level of alcohol consumption that night. There are a lot of unanswered questions as to what happened following the collision, but we have full confidence the state police are digging into it to get those answers.''

In addition to first-degree manslaughter, Michael Koistinen was charged with second-degree manslaughter, misconduct with a motor vehicle, negligent homicide and attempting to tamper with physical evidence. He will make his first court appearance at Superior Court in Hartford on Tuesday.

The warrant includes interviews with all of the Windsor Locks officers who responded to the scene, ambulance personnel from two towns, hospital personnel, friends of Michael Koistinen who say they drank with him and a Suffield Tavern bartender who said she served him tequila and Jack Daniels whiskey.

One of the officers, Paul Sherakow, has refused to talk to state police investigators and has hired a lawyer.

The warrant also provides contradictory details involving what some Windsor Locks officers told investigators. Police Chief John Suchocki, for instance, told state police he never talked to Michael Koistinen at the scene or the hospital and that he made no decisions regarding the investigation because he wanted "transparency."

But Suffield Officer Ryan Burrell, a member of a regional accident construction team called by Windsor Locks police, told state police that Suchocki ordered Michael Koistinen's car taken back to the Windsor Locks police station instead of to the Suffield police station. State police found the car three days later in an unsecured lot, covered by a tarp that anyone could have accessed, the warrant states.

The warrant also states that an East Windsor EMT told state police he heard Michael Koistinen tell Suchocki he was worried about his job – to which Suchocki replied, "Worry about yourself right now."

Robert Koistinen, the warrant states, told state police he did look for the "object" that Jeanne Johnson said had been thrown into her yard but couldn't find it because there were a lot of leaves. He told state police he returned to the police station once to make sure the regional accident team had been called before returning to the scene to help direct traffic.

But the surveillance video at the police station shows he returned three times between 12:13 a.m. and 1:03 a.m. State police believe Michael Koistinen was in the back of the vehicle each time, the warrant states.

Hartford State's Attorney Gail Hardy turned the case over to the state police a few days after the crash because of concerns that the initial investigation had been compromised. State police sources said the investigation is continuing into whether Windsor Locks police officers hindered the investigation to protect their fellow officer.

Michael Koistinen has been a Windsor Locks police officer since February 2009. He is now on paid administrative leave. Robert Koistinen has not returned to work since the crash and is using accumulated sick time.

Courant staff writer Christine Dempsey contributed to this story.

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