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Fargo police officer hit by alleged drunk driver during storm

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A Fargo police officer whose squad car was hit by an alleged drunk driver was among the victims in a wave of crashes Monday as slick roads, drifting snow and poor visibility created perilous driving conditions.

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Officer Grant Benjamin came across a vehicle stuck in the snow in the 5100 block of 40th Avenue South about 1:30 p.m. He parked his squad car in position to protect the people trying to get the vehicle unstuck, Sgt. Chris Helmick said.

As Benjamin was getting out of his squad car, it was hit from behind by a sport utility vehicle. He hit his head on the steering wheel and then hit it again on the cage divider behind his seat, Helmick said.

F-M ambulance took Benjamin to Fargo's MeritCare Hospital, where he was held overnight for observation. He had a bump on his head and soreness but no serious injuries, Helmick said.

Police arrested the SUV's driver, Jacob Daniel Rheault, 26, of West Fargo, on suspicion of driving under the influence and cited him for speed care required and driving with an expired driver's license.

"It's bad enough with the visibility and people who aren't drunk, and then we get somebody like that, and that just makes things worse," Helmick said, adding, "It took a lot of people away from helping other people that might need it at that time."

Low visibility prompted the Fargo Street Department to close 19th Avenue North from Dakota Drive to 18th Street North after a multi-vehicle accident.

Roads were slick across the region. The National Weather Service in Grand Forks reported that 1.3 inches of precipitation fell in Fargo from Friday to Monday.

It kept local agencies busy on Monday. According to the regional police log, local agencies responded to more than a dozen reports of vehicles stuck in snowdrifts and about a half dozen stalled vehicles on Monday.

In Moorhead, Police Sgt. Deric Swenson said they responded to one accident all day, but attended to half a dozen vehicles stuck in snowdrifts.

"We have people stuck on side roads and we don't want them stranded by themselves," he said. "Don't travel if you don't need to."

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