Milwaukee County Sheriff's Deputy: "I thought I was going to die"
MILWAUKEE - The video is powerful. It shows a high-speed chase two nights before last Halloween. A suspected drunk driver changes directions at the last second, collides with protective median barrels and crashes into a trailing squad car.
"I saw him strike the barrels and it was kind of like an explosion," Milwaukee County Sheriff's Deputy Scott Griffin recounted. "There was sand everywhere and then I saw the car go airborne."
The video was captured by the dash cam on Griffin's squad car.
"In my mind, I thought 'I'm going to die' and I did, I thought I was going to die," Griffin told TODAY'S TMJ4 reporter Tom Murray. "By the grace of God, I did not die that night. But, I think it was extremely close. Very close."
It has been more than six months since that crash. Griffin is still sidelined from duty. He suffered a painful spinal injury and a concussion.
"It was kind of like getting hit by a boxer," Griffin explains. "That sudden stop. It was like getting punched in the face."
The suspected drunk driver is Kevin Hutchins, 41, of Milwaukee. He appeared uncooperative and belligerent after his arrest.
"I'm allergic to [expletive] cops and [expletive] paramedics," Hutchins is heard on squad car video after his arrest.
Hutchins is in custody, set to go on trial this summer. He was convicted of his second OWI in 2009.
Judge Patrick Snyder presided over that case.
At sentencing for that charge, Hutchins wrote to the Waukesha County circuit judge, "I do not want to repeat my destructive behavior" and "I can never drink a drop of alcohol again."
In an interview, Snyder said criminals "always" say they will never offend again.
Snyder has seen so many repeat drunk driving cases that it has become a sad routine.
"I have no recollection of the case," Snyder told TODAY'S TMJ4 reporter Tom Murray. "You told me I sentenced him to 100 days. I think you'll find by any standard from any judge, that's a high sentence for a second time drunk driver."
As for Deputy Griffin, he marks the time by missed holidays on duty. Holidays that are traditionally big nights for catching drunk drivers.
"Thanksgiving, New Years, Christmas - all of these major enforcement times that go and I have not been able to participate in that," Griffin said.
Griffin is one of at least ten Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office deputies unable to work because of injuries suffered on duty, according to the Milwaukee Deputy Sheriffs' Association.
Hutchins is the 1,000th suspected repeat drunk driver arrested by Milwaukee County sheriff's deputies since new laws took effect in 2010.