Sheriff fires deputy charged in fatal crash

2011-08-12T00:05:00Z 2011-08-17T09:25:01Z Sheriff fires deputy charged in fatal crashANNE JUNGEN | La Crosse Tribune

La Crosse County Sheriff Steve Helgeson fired a deputy Wednesday charged with homicide in a fatal crash last summer.

Deputy Trisha Stratman's firing came after an internal investigation into the July 18, 2010, crash that killed a 16-year-old driver, said county Deputy Corporation Counsel David Lange.

Results of the investigation were not released, though the Tribune filed an open records request for access to the reports.

Special prosecutors charged Stratman with homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle after a criminal investigation revealed she sped through a red light at 90 mph and collided with another car at Hwys. 35 and OT, according to the complaint filed in La Crosse County Circuit Court.

Holmen High School student Brandon Jennings of Onalaska was thrown from his car and killed.

"It's a tragic case both for the family of Brandon Jennings and Trisha Stratman and her family," Lange said.

Stratman's attorney through the Wisconsin Professional Police Association was not available Thursday, but her criminal attorney Jordan Loeb questioned the timing of the firing during "the presumption of innocence."

"I think it sucks that everyone's running scared instead of standing up for her," Loeb said.

Stratman, 33, was responding with lights and siren activated to an emergency call from a Holmen police officer handling a rowdy crowd outside Smokey's Bar.

She slowed from 106 to 90 mph about 1 second before the collision, according to the complaint.

Stratman has pleaded not guilty and her case is set to go to trial Nov. 7.

She was placed on administrative leave after the crash.

State law allows officers responding to emergencies to speed through traffic signals with lights and sirens activated, but only after slowing down. Sheriff's department policy also directs deputies to travel at speeds that allow them to stop or yield to vehicles that have the right of way at red lights.

Copyright 2015 La Crosse Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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