Trial begins for man accused of assaulting Breckenridge Police officer
Well over 100 prospective jurors piled into the pews inside the Summit County Justice Center on Tuesday morning, bumping shoulder-to-shoulder and awaiting either their release or selection to the 12-person jury in the trial of Nathan Alexander Finnegan.
Finnegan, 22, of Minnesota, stands accused of first- and second-degree assault along with several other charges stemming from an incident in July last year wherein he allegedly attacked Breckenridge Police officer Jennifer Kruse.
At about 1:40 a.m. on July 21, 2018, officer Kruse received a call regarding a single-vehicle accident on Highlands Drive, near the intersection with Dyer Trail in Breckenridge. Shortly after, she received another call reporting a man lying in the roadway on Highway 9, not far from the crash.
On scene, Kruse located the man, later identified as Finnegan, lying in the highway wearing only boxer shorts, according to police reports. She identified Finnegan via his driver’s license and asked him to move out of the road to a nearby curb for safety reasons. Kruse noted that Finnegan’s hand was bleeding and reported that he was experiencing “dramatic behavioral changes,” shifting from telling Kruse that he loved her to demanding to be taken to jail.
Finnegan attempted to stand and get inside the patrol vehicle when the incident began to spiral. Kruse said she told him to sit back down and wait for paramedics, at which point Finnegan allegedly stood up and hit Kruse in the face, knocking her to the ground. According to the report, Kruse lost consciousness but remembered attempting to regain her footing and calling for backup on her radio.
Deputies with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office arrived on scene shorty after, and reported finding Kruse laying on the ground and Finnegan punching the back of her patrol vehicle. The hatch door of the car was dented and the taillight was broken. The deputies also noted there was a non-descript “struggle” as they arrested Finnegan.
Both officer Kruse and Finnegan were taken to St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco for medical evaluations. In the meantime, officers with the Breckenridge Police Department located the vehicle crashed off of Highlands Drive, noting damage on the passenger’s side of the car consistent with hitting a guardrail and running off the road. Though the vehicle wasn’t registered to Finnegan, a subsequent search of the car turned up two prescription pill bottles in Finnegan’s name, along with a paystub and paycheck. Officers also discovered blood on the steering wheel and door handle consistent with Finnegan’s hand injury.
Additionally, officers located a trail of blood and clothing on Highlands Drive heading toward CO 9 where Finnegan was first contacted. According to the report, officers believed that Finnegan may have been suffering from a condition called “excited delirium” — a condition characterized by violent tendencies and high blood temperature often caused by the ingestion of illicit narcotics — due to his allegedly violent behavior and his decision to disrobe in 40 degree weather at the time. There was no mention of a toxicology screening in the police report.
Officer Kruse was treated for a traumatic brain injury in addition to a neck injury and laceration above her eye that caused temporary vision issues, said District Attorney Bruce Brown. She was released from the hospital that morning and returned to duty days later.
Finnegan was held at the hospital until July 23, and was taken into custody by officers with the Breckenridge Police Department. Finnegan is charged with first- and second-degree assault, criminal mischief, resisting arrest, driving under the influence, careless driving, two counts of violence and failing to report the car accident.
The hearing on Tuesday was relatively subdued but slogging, as attorneys on both sides took turns questioning the prospective jurors on their relationships and thoughts on the trial process between intermittent trips to the bench or the judge’s chambers. The day’s voir dire, which began at 8:30 a.m., continued well past 6:30 p.m. until the pool was finally whittled down to 12 plus an alternate.
With the selection out of the way, the trial will start in earnest Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. with opening statements. The trial is currently scheduled to run through Friday. Chief Judge Mark Thompson is presiding over the proceedings. District Attorney Bruce Brown is prosecuting the case opposite Finnegan’s attorney, Kevin Jensen.
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