Skip to main content
Publish date:

Charges: Sheriff's deputy was on drugs during high-speed chase in Fergus Falls that turned deadly

Kelly Backman had fentanyl in his system at the time of the chase, which ended when the suspect crashed into another vehicle, killing a married couple.

An Otter Tail County sheriff's deputy is accused of being on drugs during an Oct. 2, 2020, high-speed police chase that ended when the suspect crashed into another vehicle, killing a married couple.

Kelly Douglas Backman, 43, of Fergus Falls, was charged Feb. 19 in Otter Tail County with misconduct of a public officer and fourth-degree DWI in connection to the chase that involved a suspect named Cody Freitag. 

The chase ended with Freitag crashing into the vehicle of  Steven J. Christianson, 72, and Diane L. Christianson, 71, who were killed as a result.

After the crash, investigators asked Backman and fellow Deputy Michael Wing to provide a voluntary blood sample, with Wing's coming back showing no alcohol or control substances in his system, the complaint states. 

Backman, however, refused to provide a voluntary blood sample. He did provide a preliminary breath test, which showed no alcohol, charges say. A blood sample was taken later, which was positive for Alprazolam, which he was prescribed, as well as 3.0 ng/mL of fentanyl and 1.7 ng/mL of nor-fentanyl.

It was determined Backman was under the influence of the synthetic opioid fentanyl at the time he was operating his squad car, the complaint says. 

Investigators found some discrepancies involving Backman's work as a narcotics investigator, including him not logging drugs into evidence in two instances in August, charges say. 

Meanwhile, investigators conducted a search warrant on Backman's desk and lockers, where they found a large baggie of glass pipes and grinders, a small plastic vial that appeared to be empty. In a temporary evidence locker only Beckman had access to, investigators found a Pelican-style case with burned tinfoil, a small plastic bottle with a blue lid that contained a white powdery substance and a scale. 

If convicted, Beckman faces up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine for the DWI charge and up to one year in prison and/or a $3,000 fine for the misconduct charge. 

The chase, subsequent crash

According to the criminal complaint, deputies Backman and Michael Wing were working the night of Oct. 2, 2020. Wing and Backman were driving separate unmarked police vehicles trying to locate and arrest Freitag, who was a fugitive wanted for felony third-degree controlled substance, fleeing in a motor vehicle and other offenses.

Backman, who was working undercover, attempted to buy controlled substances from Freitag at a convenience store in Fergus Falls as a ruse to arrest Freitag.

When he spotted Freitag pull into the parking lot, he radioed Wing, who approached the vehicle in his uniform and Freitag took off.

Freitag drove away at a "extremely high rate of speed," with Wing following him and Backman following behind Wing. Wing went to follow Freitag around a turn, but he hit a curb, which disabled his vehicle, charges state.

Backman continued with the pursuit, with his lights and siren activated. He was about 2-3 blocks behind Freitag and they were going upwards of 70-80 mph, noting Freitag was driving dangerously and wasn't stopping at stop signs.

Then, at the intersection of Cavour and Union streets, Backman saw a cloud of dust and figured Freitag had crashed. When he approached the scene, he saw Freitag crashed into the Christiansons' sedan. The pair later died in a hospital.

Meanwhile, Freitag on the ground near the passenger door of the van he had been driving, charges say.

Freitag was charged in October in connection to the warrants and police chase. 

Next Up

Dalvin Cook

Report: Dalvin Cook has dislocated shoulder, will undergo MRI

The Vikings running back was carted off the field in Sunday's loss to the 49ers.

Kirk Cousins

Watch: Kirk Cousins lines up under guard on critical 4th down play

Kirk Cousins went "Full Kirk" at the worst possible time.

Dalvin Cook

Dalvin Cook injured, Vikings drop crucial game against 49ers

The Vikings couldn't stop the Niners' rushing attack in a 34-26 loss.

Flickr - police lights squad siren - Edward Kimmel

Man airlifted to a hospital after police shooting in Forest Lake

Police allege that the man presented a threat to officers.

Minnesota Wild

Wild's two third-period goals take down the Lightning

Ryan Hartman's go-ahead goal defeated the two-time defending champions.

Byron Buxton

Reports: Twins reach extension with Byron Buxton

The long-term deal locks in one of the Twins' franchise players.

Justin Jefferson

Vikings-49ers: 5 things you can count on

Sunday's matchup is a pivotal game in the NFC playoff picture.

Gopher Football

Watch: Gophers troll Badgers with 'Jump Around' after Saturday's win

First they took Paul Bunyan's Axe. Then they took their tradition.

Brandon Richart, missing person

Search underway for missing man in Anoka area

Brandon Richart was last seen Nov. 17.

U.S. Bank Stadium

5 teams win first state championships at Prep Bowl

A pair of records fell as the Prep Bowl lived up to the hype.


court room

Ex-deputy to plead guilty to being on fentanyl during deadly pursuit

Kelly Backman admits he was on drugs during a chase through Fergus Falls last October.

police lights

Charges: Man fleeing deputies slammed into car, killing married couple

He's accused of fleeing the scene of a meeting with undercover deputies.

george williamson

Charges: High-speed chase for wanted man ends with wrong-way crash

The man had several felony warrants out for his arrest.

Maplewood victims

Victims of deadly high-speed crash in Maplewood identified as boys

The boys were in a vehicle that fled authorities and crashed around 3:40 p.m. Sept. 3.

Ramsey County Sheriff's Office

2 dead, driver at large after fleeing police and crashing in Maplewood

The driver and four passengers in the stolen suspect vehicle crashed around 3:40 p.m.

Blaine police

Charges: Man yelled obscenities, fired shots at officers during standoff

The incident in Blaine ended when a sheriff's deputy shot the suspect.


Husband and wife ID'd as pair killed by driver fleeing deputies in Fergus Falls

The suspect ran a stop sign and broadsided the couple's vehicle.

boat, boating, lake

1 dead after speeding boater slams into docked boat on MN lake

The crash happened on Saturday afternoon while the man was docked at his property.