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Wrong-Way Driver Hits, Kills 2 Men In Waite Park

Video Courtesy: Margaret Still

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A driver going the wrong way killed two men in Stearns County Monday night as they were test-driving a classic car.

It happened in Waite Park around 7:15 p.m. Monday. Police say a driver headed east in the westbound lanes of Division Street crashed head-on with another car, killing both men inside.

waite park fatal crash
(credit: Waite Park police)

Police identified the wrong-way driver as 28-year-old Charlie Barnett from St. Cloud. WCCO's Angela Davis tells us more.

waite park crash
Barnett's vehicle (credit: Waite Park police)

Division Street runs through a busy section of Waite Park. Monday night, it's where 77-year-old Roger Nelson met a potential buyer of his 1970 Chevrolet El Camino. A car that won trophies. A car he loved.

"The polish rag would come out. It was always spic and span and getting it ready to go," neighbor Butch Liestman said.

Monday night, that car was crushed and 61-year-old Richard Tomlinson of Grantsburg, Wis., was killed as he was test-driving it. Nelson, who was a passenger, also died.

"It was pretty catastrophic. I don't want to speculate as to the speed of the striking vehicle, but from my experience, it would seem to me that he was traveling at a pretty above the posted speed limit," Waite Park Police Chief David Bentrud said.

Police say the wrong-way driver, Charlie Barnett, had just gotten out of jail that day after violating an order for protection. Roger Nelson's family members say he was a retired truck driver, father of four and a grandpa.

"What was the person doing, you know, before they jumped in their car? I guess that's what I'm thinking of. What kind of condition was this person in to even be thinking about driving like that?" Liestman said.

According to state records, Barnett's driver's license is revoked. It also showed he was arrested and booked into the Stearns County Jail on July 8 and released on July 9 after being cited for a misdemeanor no-contact order violation. It's his fifth no-contact order violation out of Stearns County since being charged with domestic assault in January 2018.

The crash remains under investigation.

Anyone with information on the crash is asked to contact Waite Park police at 320-251-3281.

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