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Iowa man accused of 4th drunk driving offense

Iowa man accused of 4th drunk driving offense

From the COLLECTION: Crime and Courts, La Crosse County series
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A criminal complaint has been filed in La Crosse County Circuit Court against a 39-year-old Waterloo, Iowa, man accused of felony fourth-offense drunk driving. Joseph J. McGowan is also accused of fourth-offense operating with a prohibited alcohol concentration.

According to the complaint, police were called Feb. 6 to the Wharf Lounge in Onalaska, where a witness reported a “messed up” man sitting inside a vehicle. The witness said the man, later identified as McGowan, backed up and pulled forward in the parking lot before coming to a stop. The witness said McGowan didn’t respond to knocking on the car window.

When police arrived, the vehicle was running with its headlights on and McGowan in the driver’s seat. An officer knocked on the window, but McGowan didn’t respond. The officer then opened the door, which caused McGowan to perk up. The officer asked McGowan if he was OK, and he reportedly responded, “My God, yeah” and that he was “trying to sleep it off.” The complaint says McGowan had glassy eyes and slurred speech and wasn’t wearing pants. The officer reported a strong odor of intoxicants coming from the vehicle.

Due to a windchill of minus 25 degrees, police requested that McGowan take a field sobriety test at the Onalaska Police Department. McGowan reportedly told police it wasn’t necessary because he was only inside the vehicle and not operating it.

The complaint says McGowan also refused a preliminary breath test and blood test. Police obtained a warrant for a blood draw, and the State Crime Lab reported a blood-alcohol level of .278.

McGowan’s three previous drunk driving convictions are from Black Hawk County, Iowa. He has an initial court appearance in La Crosse set for April 8.

La Crosse Tribune reporter Steve Rundio can be reached at


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Tomah Journal editor

Steve Rundio is editor of the Tomah Journal. Contact him at 608-374-7785.

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