New Ulm settles fatal crash case for $570,000

NEW ULM, Minn. (AP) – The city of New Ulm has agreed to pay $570,000 to family members of two people killed when a police car crashed into their vehicle two years ago.

The Mankato Free Press reported that the city’s insurer has paid the money to family members of 82-year-old Myra Meyer and her 60-year-old son, Brian Wichmann. The two were killed July 8, 2011, when Officer Mathew Rasmussen crashed into their vehicle while chasing a speeding suspect.

The case went to a Brown County grand jury in January 2012. It returned a “no-bill,”or no indictment against Rasmussen.

Steven Collins, the Redwood County Attorney acting as special prosecutor, said the grand jury considered a number of felony and misdemeanor criminal counts, but issued a “no-bill” on each count. As a result, there were no criminal charges filed against Rasmussen, The Journal of New Ulm reported in January 2012.

Grand jury proceedings are confidential.

Subsequently, Meyer’s three other children sued him and the city, claiming he was negligent because he was traveling at least 70 mph in a 30 mph zone and did not have his emergency lights or siren activated.

The settlement was finalized in May, The Journal reported. Details were not disclosed at that time. The settlement includes no admission of wrongdoing.

At the time of the settlement, an attorney for New Ulm and Rasmussen was mounting a defense that placed blame on Meyer. Meyer’s insurance company agreed to pay $100,000 as part of the mediated settlement – bringing the total settlement to $670,000.

Peter Riley, an attorney for the family, said Meyer’s surviving children don’t believe she was at fault, and the payment from the city speaks for itself.

“The plain fact of the matter is they are not making this payment other than they admit (they’re at fault),” Riley said. He said an investigation by his firm showed Rasmussen was disciplined.

But New Ulm Police Chief Myron Wieland disagreed that the settlement is an admission of fault. He declined to comment on any discipline.

Rasmussen told investigators from the State Patrol that he left the emergency lights on while pursuing the speeding vehicle, and the lights went off when his squad car lost power due to the crash. But the squad video camera, which shows 29 seconds of footage before the collision, gives no indication that emergency lights were on. Several witnesses also said emergency lights were not activated.

Dana Wichmann, 59, of Waseca, is one of Meyer’s children. He has started a website, hoping that authorities will be investigated for how the crash was handled.

“I don’t believe justice has been served,” Wichmann said. “I think it’s some cowboy cop and they’re trying to cover it up. … It’s nice to have money, but I’d rather have truth and justice.”

Wichmann has been critical of the New Ulm Police Department because he felt Rasmussen should have been disciplined by the department. He recently told a reporter for The Journal that he believes his mother performed no wrong action in the accident.

He established the website to air his complaints and his further accusations against NUPD.

Editor’s Note: Information from Journal staff writers was included in this story.

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