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Rochester man sentenced in August 2020 fleeing incident

A Rochester police officer fired his service weapon during the Aug. 12, 2020, incident, but did not strike anyone after the Rochester man reportedly hit another officer with his vehicle.

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ROCHESTER — A Rochester man was sentenced to three years of supervised probation after an Olmsted County District Court judge urged him to not "do such dangerous stuff in the future."

The admonishment came from Judge Joseph Chase as he handed down the sentence to 27-year-old Dawante Atkins Thursday afternoon, Jan. 20, 2022. Atkins pleaded guilty in November 2021 to felony fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle. The probationary sentence is a stay of imposition, meaning that if Atkins successfully completes the terms of his probation, the felony charge could be reduced to a misdemeanor.

Atkins was behind the wheel of a vehicle on Aug. 12, 2020, when an officer attempted to pull him over about 2 a.m. for a tail light violation. Atkins did not stop and instead, fled from the officer.

Dawante Atkins mug
Dawante Atkins

After running the license plate of the vehicle, officers set up in the area of the 3400 block of Kenosha Drive Northwest because that was the registered address of the vehicle, according to court records. When the vehicle entered the Kenosha Drive apartments parking lot, police boxed it in and an officer got out of his squad to approach the driver. The officer was then hit by the vehicle.

"Officer (Nick) Kruger was launched into the air and over the top of the vehicle before landing on the pavement," the criminal complaint states. "Fortunately, Officer Kruger was not substantially injured."

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Kruger was treated for his injuries and released from the hospital that same day. Atkins' attorney Sam Schabel said there was no evidence Atkins had intended to hit the officer. Chase acknowledged that Atkins had denied seeing the officer before hitting him, but said it was not surprising that someone was hit given the high-risk, dangerous behavior that took place.

Rochester police officer James Perry fired his weapon at the vehicle during the final moments of the pursuit. The bullet did not hit anyone. In October 2020, the Rochester Police Department announced that Perry would not be criminally charged.

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Atkins was not charged with fleeing until more than seven months after the incident. Prosecutors had filed a notice of intent to seek an aggravated sentence in the case, but that motion was ultimately denied by Judge Christina Stevens.

Schabel said in court Thursday afternoon that the incident came at a time when Atkins was in a mental health crisis and he is now getting the services as well as "doing everything he can to remain law abiding." Schabel also noted that Atkins has been "making tremendous strides."

Emily Cutts is the Post Bulletin's public safety reporter. She joined the Post Bulletin in July 2018 after stints in Vermont and Western Massachusetts.
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