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Charges: Anonymous tip led police to man who fatally hit pedestrian in St. Paul and fled

The crash happened on Jan. 22.
Robert Kinney

The man accused of hitting a pedestrian in St. Paul on Jan. 22 and then fleeing the scene has been arrested and charged thanks to an anonymous tip.

Robert Wilson Kinney, 57, of Maplewood, was charged Thursday with one count of criminal vehicular homicide in the death of John Benjamin, 68, of St. Paul. 

Wilson will make his first court appearance in Ramsey County District Court on Friday morning via Zoom. 

"We are grateful for the individual who came forward to provide critical information to law enforcement. We thank the police investigator for his diligent work on this case," Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said in a statement. 

According to the criminal complaint, at 8:37 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 22, St. Paul police responded to the area of McKnight Road North and Margaret Street where they found a man, later identified as Benjamin, lying face down against a snowbank. When they turned him over, his facemask was covered in blood and medics weren't able to find a pulse. 

Officers found debris at the scene that appeared to be from the vehicle that hit Benjamin and spoke to a neighbor who heard loud noises outside prior to officers' arrival, charges say.

Through their investigation, police learned Benjamin lived a few blocks away and was headed home from a nearby liquor store when he was hit and killed. 

An anonymous tip to police said the driver involved in the crash was a regular at 5-8 Tavern and Grill in Maplewood named Bob, adding he was "crash drinking" in the bar the night of the hit-and-run, the complaint says.

Investigators looked at credit card slips to find Kinney's name, charges state. A bartender confirmed he is a regular. 

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Surveillance video from the bar the night of the crash showed Kinney drinking there for three hours, consuming eight double Tito's while he was there, the complaint says.

On Jan. 26, officers did surveillance at Kinney's Maplewood home and saw a vehicle that matched what was believed to be the one that hit Benjamin, charges say. Kinney's vehicle that a large dent in it and a portion of the bumper was missing. The missing pieces matched those found at the scene of the crash. 

Kinney was then arrested, the complaint says. When police asked him if he knew anything about the hit-and-run on Jan. 22, he said: “I know there’s damage on my car, but what was the result of the damage?” When asked if Kinney went anywhere before he went home that night, Kinney asked for a lawyer. 

Kinney has a prior gross misdemeanor DWI and a misdemeanor DWI, both out of Washington County.

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