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Former Superior police sergeant pleads not guilty to fatal crash charges

Gregory Swanson faces 12 criminal charges in Douglas County Circuit Court.

Douglas County, Wis., Courtroom
Douglas County Circuit Court, Superior, Wisconsin.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — A former Superior Police sergeant accused of killing two people and injuring two others during a July traffic crash pleaded not guilty in Douglas County Circuit Court Monday, Sept. 19, to criminal charges connected with the incident.

Gergory Matthew Swanson.jpeg
Gregory Matthew Swanson
Contributed / Douglas County Jail

Gregory M. Swanson, 42, of Solon Springs, was initially charged with one felony count of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle. An amended complaint filed Aug. 22 contained 11 additional charges — two counts of homicide by use of a vehicle with a prohibited alcohol concentration, two counts of hit and run resulting in death, an additional count of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle, two counts of causing injury by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle, two counts of causing injury by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle with a prohibited alcohol concentration and two counts of hit and run resulting in injury.

Swanson waived the reading of the charges Monday and pleaded not guilty, according to online court records. He also pleaded not guilty to a trailing citation for first-offense operating with a prohibited alcohol concentration.

A 15-year veteran of the Superior Police Department, Swanson was off duty at the time of the crash. He resigned from the department Aug. 4, according to Superior Police Chief Nicholas Alexander.

According to the criminal complaint, a vehicle Swanson was driving struck a disabled sedan with no lights in the right lane of the 5200 block of East Second Street at about 1:17 a.m. July 15. A 23-year-old man was reported dead at the scene, according to a Superior Police Department news release. He had been behind the vehicle pushing it at the time of the crash. Another occupant of the vehicle, 2-month-old Elijah Michael Ojanen, died four days later from blunt force trauma suffered during the crash, according to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner.

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A blood draw indicated Swanson had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.190 at the time of the crash, more than twice the legal limit, the amended complaint said.

Two additional occupants of the vehicle — a woman and an older child — were treated for injuries caused by the collision at Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center, including whiplash, a laceration and bruising from child safety restraint straps.

After striking the vehicle, Swanson reportedly drove to the Holiday gas station a few blocks away. A witness at the gas station told a Douglas County Sheriff’s Office deputy they saw Swanson get out of his vehicle with a six-pack of alcoholic beverages and throw them into a garbage can.

Following his initial appearance July 18, Swanson posted a $15,000 cash bond and was ordered to have no contact with the victims' family or occupants of the vehicle, no use or possession of alcohol, and no operation of a motor vehicle without a valid license or permit.

Swanson’s next court appearance was set for Jan. 9, 2023.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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