Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Expert believed Byfuglien high

Police report reveals details of Jet's arrest

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Winnipeg Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien displayed a host of symptoms that led a police expert to believe he was high on drugs following his arrest in Minnesota last month.

Documents released Tuesday and obtained by the Free Press provide insight into the circumstances of the high-profile incident that led to a U.S. prosecutor endorsing four criminal charges against Byfuglien.

A police drug-recognition expert was called in to examine Byfuglien, 26, after he was spot-checked during the evening of Aug. 31 while boating on Lake Minnetonka because he didn't have proper lights on the craft.

"Mr. Byfuglien's speech was slurred, he was unsteady on his feet, his eyes were bloodshot and watery and he smelled of a consumed alcoholic beverage," Deputy Ben Bierbaum of the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office water patrol division wrote in an arrest report. "Mr. Byfuglien was unable to successfully perform field sobriety tests as requested."

Sources told the Free Press he had just finished eating dinner at a dockside restaurant with his girlfriend, a business associate and another woman, where he is said to have had two or three glasses of wine.

Police were puzzled after Byfuglien agreed to a breathalyzer test -- and passed. He registered just .03, which is below the legal limit of .08. But police weren't finished.

"Based on his observations, Deputy Bierbaum formed the opinion that Mr. Byfuglien was under the influence and placed Mr. Byfuglien under arrest," the police report states. Byfuglien was taken to the police detachment where the drug expert analyzed him.

"Mr. Byfuglien stated that he had taken a muscle relaxer earlier that day, but that he could not remember the name of the muscle relaxer," said the report. "Mr. Byfuglien stated that he takes a 'handful' of supplements from 16 or 17 different bottles every day and that he does not know the names of the supplements."

Byfuglien refused to give a blood or urine sample, which is an automatic offence by law. The drug recognition expert noted his pulse was quite high -- up to 98 beats per minute. The normal range is between 60 to 90 beats per minute. Byfuglien also had a blood pressure reading of 175 over 100. The normal range is between 120-140 over 70-90, according to police.

Byfuglien also had a body temperature of 99.2 F, slightly above the normal reading of 98.6 F. There was a mysterious "distinct brown stain on his tongue," which police noted in their report. Police say his eyes were glassy and showed a "lack of smooth pursuit" which, combined with other factors, led to a belief he was "under the influence of a controlled substance and was unable to safely operate a watercraft."

The charge of refusing a blood or urine test carries a maximum one-year jail sentence, while the other charges of boating while intoxicated, failing to display proper lights and failing to provide enough floatation devices for himself and three other passengers on the boat carry a maximum of 90 days behind bars.

Byfuglien is free without any bail conditions and is scheduled for his first court appearance on Oct. 21. His lawyer is able to appear on his behalf.

Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said the organization takes the allegations seriously.

"While we will continue to support him in this situation, we understand the severity of the charges involved in this case. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and, until the continuing legal process is completed, we will have no further comment," he said in a statement.

Byfuglien has previously declined to comment.

If convicted, Byfuglien would have to apply in writing to the Canadian government for a temporary-resident permit to enter the country. If granted, the order would expire after one year. Byfuglien would have to apply for five consecutive years before he could try to get a lifetime pass.

Manitoba also upholds any driver's licence suspension imposed in the United States. In Manitoba, a conviction for refusing a test draws a two-year licence suspension.

Now that Byfuglien has been charged, doctors from the NHL Players' Association and the league will assess whether he should be placed in a substance abuse program. Byfuglien led NHL defencemen last year in goals and helped guide the Chicago Blackhawks to the 2010 Stanley Cup before being traded to the Atlanta Thrashers in June 2010.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 21, 2011 0

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