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Driver pleads guilty to crashing into downtown St. Paul bar, injuring 5


A man who crashed his minivan into a downtown St. Paul bar and restaurant in May, injuring five people inside, pleaded guilty Monday to three felony charges as part of a plea agreement, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.

Matthew Michael Damman, 32, of Little Canada, pleaded guilty in Ramsey County District Court to one count of fleeing a peace officer in a vehicle and two counts of criminal vehicular operation under the influence of a controlled substance.

In court Monday, Damman testified that he was under the influence of cocaine, alcohol and marijuana when he crashed his car into the Bulldog Restaurant at 6th and Wacouta Streets in downtown St. Paul early on the morning of May 2, according to the Pioneer Press.

Damman's vehicle was being pursued by the State Patrol when the accident occurred.

The chase began when police got a 911 call about a minivan that was driving erratically on Highway 61 near Interstate 494 in Newport. The caller said the vehicle was weaving in and out of traffic.

Authorities followed the vehicle onto Interstate 94 and troopers attempted to pull the van over near the 6th Street exit. Damman did not stop, took the exit ramp and drove another block before crashing into the restaurant.

The impact of the crash was strong enough to deploy the airbags in Damman's vehicle. Five people inside the bar were injured by flying glass.

Damman's attorney Paul Rogosheske said in court Monday that Damman had a diabetic reaction that contributed to the crash, according to the Pioneer Press.

Damman was originally charged with five felonies and seven gross misdemeanors. The plea agreement calls for a minimum sentence of 180 days in jail, according to the Star Tribune. His sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 26.

The Star Tribune notes that Damman declined to comment after the hearing, but Rogosheske said his client was "just sorry that it happened."

Court records show Damman has committed at least 10 traffic violations in Minnesota since 2001, with two drunken-driving convictions among them.

Three years ago, he was a passenger in a vehicle that ran over a group of University of Minnesota students in Dinkytown, killing one person and injuring two others. The driver in that incident, Timothy Bakdash, was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 40 years in prison.

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