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Court upholds sentence for man who killed cop in chase

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The Minnesota Supreme Court has upheld the 40-year prison sentence for a South Dakota man who led police on a high speed chase on I-35, which left a Lino Lakes police officer dead and another man severely injured.

Steven Stanke pleaded guilty in 2006 to killing officer Shawn Silvera. Stanke, who was wanted in connection with several South Dakota burglaries, fled police in a stolen car at speeds between 90 and 110 miles per hour on I-35W during rush hour. 

Stanke had been awake for two weeks on methamphetamine. While passing between two trucks, Stanke loaded a syringe with meth and water, injected it into his arm, and spoke on a cell phone during the chase. He steered the car with his knee. 

Approximately fourteen miles into the chase, Lino Lakes Police Officer Shawn Silvera deployed "stop sticks," which deflate tires, in the left lane of southbound I-35W. After Silvera placed the stop sticks across the left lane, he positioned himself near the shoulder of I-35W as Stanke's car approached. Stanke turned his car to the left and hit Silvera. 

The collision threw Silvera at least 310 feet away where his body came to rest in a ditch. After striking Silvera, Stanke hit another car, which caused the driver "to suffer significant injury." 

Stanke pleaded guilty to fleeing a peace officer resulting in death and injuring the other driver, but appealed his sentence as too harsh. 

The state Supreme Court said the judge did err in calculating the sentence, but the error was minor and would not have made a difference in Stanke's time. 

The judge had added more time to Stanke's sentence based on the aggravating factor that the officer was particularly vulnerable while acting in the line of duty. 

The justices said that factor was already built into the crime to which Stanke had pleaded guilty, but would uphold Stanke's sentence on other grounds. 

"Although remanding this case to the district court to reweigh the defendant's sentence in light of our decision would ordinarily be the better course of action, the facts here are so atypical and particularly egregious that they justify affirming defendant's sentence," they said.