EARLIER: Accused Superior officer testifies in road rage trial
TWO HARBORS -- Superior Police Officer Ross Magnuson testified that he lifted his gun from his holster for only a few seconds because he feared an attack from the reckless motorist he was attempting to question. He never pointed it at anyone, he ...
TWO HARBORS -- Superior Police Officer Ross Magnuson testified that he lifted his gun from his holster for only a few seconds because he feared an attack from the reckless motorist he was attempting to question. He never pointed it at anyone, he said.
Magnuson is accused of pointing his Smith and Wesson semi-automatic pistol at Philip Hoberg at the Holiday West store after an apparent road rage incident on Highway 61 just west of Two Harbors on Aug. 17 while off-duty.
Magnuson, 46, of Knife River, a 12-year Superior police officer, is standing trial in Lake County District Court on charges of second-degree assault and making terroristic threats -- both felonies -- as well as recklessly handling a dangerous weapon and disorderly conduct.
Magnuson testified that Hoberg came up behind him at a speed of 100 mph or more and rode his bumper before backing off. He said Hoberg did it at least four times in about a three-mile stretch. The officer said he then saw the speeding motorist cross a double yellow line, passing two cars on an S curve in a no-passing zone and ducking back into the lane of travel as about eight cars approached from the opposite direction.
Magnuson called it reckless and horrendous driving. He said he was overwhelmed by the potential loss of life. He became emotional and his voice cracked when he said that a brother of one of his son's friends had been killed in a traffic accident on that same stretch of highway.
Magnuson said he followed Hoberg into the Holiday West store parking lot because he thought he could be under the influence of drugs. He said Hoberg then threatened to break his neck after being approached. He said he saw Hoberg reach to the floor of his vehicle before coming out at him. When Hoberg pushed him in the chest and put a hand on his throat, Magnuson said he pulled the gun from his holster and Hoberg backed off. He immediately holstered the weapon, he said.
Hoberg, his girlfriend, Angela Moore, and her then 3-year-old son were driving to Gooseberry Falls that day. Moore testified that Hoberg was not driving recklessly and was traveling the speed limit. She said she knew that because she always paid attention to the speed when her son was in the vehicle.
Moore testified that an angry Magnuson came to the open moon roof of their vehicle, leaned on the vehicle and was yelling in at Hoberg. She said she saw Magnuson with his gun held out and pointed straight. At one point, she said she put herself between Magnuson and her son because she feared for the boy's safety.
Defense attorney Peter Wold questioned Two Harbors Police Officer Nathan Gens, the lead investigator in the case. Wold said no trained law officer would allow a suspect to touch their drawn gun as Hoberg claimed he had done to make Magnuson lower the weapon.
"Do you buy that story?'' Wold barked at Gens. "Come on. Do you?''
"No,'' Gens said.
Lake County Attorney Russ Conrow asked Gens what he would do if he were off-duty and saw a reckless driver. Gens said he would call 911 or an officer who he knew was working. Conrow suggested to Magnuson that he could have called the State Patrol, the Lake County Sheriff's Office or Two Harbors police if he were concerned about Hoberg's driving behavior. The Lake County Law Enforcement Center is about five minutes from the Holiday store.
The attorneys indicated to Judge Kenneth Sandvik that the final defense witnesses will testify today and the prosecution might call a rebuttal witness before the case is presented to the jury for deliberations.