Wis. man charged with 15th alcohol-related offense

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A revoked driver convicted 14 times of drunken driving crashed into a cage of propane tanks before being stopped by police, who found alcohol in his system, according to charges filed this week in St. Croix County.

The Monday, Oct. 9, incident led to one count of felony operating with a prohibited alcohol concentration-15th offense and a misdemeanor count of operating while revoked against 64-year-old Mark Alan Johnson. He was also cited for failure to notify police of an accident.

The New Richmond man made his initial court appearance Tuesday in St. Croix County Circuit Court, where Judge Edward Vlack ordered him to post $15,000 cash bond.

According to a criminal complaint:
A manager at the BP station on Fourth Street in New Richmond reported at 8:46 a.m. that someone had just driven into a cage containing propane tanks on the side of the building.

Police arrived and learned that gas station employees approached the man after the crash, where he told them his car's brakes had failed.

He then went into the store, bought a pack of cigarettes and left in his car over workers' protests for him to stay until police arrived.

Police documented how the cage containing the propane tanks was dented, concrete parking dividers were crooked and glass debris was left behind. They reviewed surveillance footage, which depicted a maroon Pontiac Bonneville driven by a man in blue jeans and a blue-plaid shirt as responsible for the damage.

"Instead of stopping, the vehicle rams right into the cages before backing into the parking stalls on the very west end of the parking lot," the complaint states.

An officer on patrol at 12:48 p.m. spotted a car matching the description from the BP crash driving on West Eighth Street. The driver was a man wearing a blue-plaid shirt.

The officer pulled over the driver, later identified as Johnson, who admitted to the crash. Asked by an officer why he hadn't waited for police, Johnson said he had to work at the time.

Police then learned that Johnson's driving privileges had been revoked due to alcohol, he was on probation and that he'd had 14 prior OWIs. A probation agent requested police test Johnson for alcohol since he was prohibited from driving with a concentration greater than 0.02.

Johnson told police he'd consumed a beer for lunch. He blew a 0.036.

Bond conditions require Johnson to submit to random alcohol tests at least three times a week.

A preliminary hearing in the case is set for Oct. 19.