RACINE (WITI) — Racine County Sheriff’s deputies arrested 69-year-old Patrick Coffey of New Berlin late Thursday night, August 15th for driving southbound in the northbound lanes of I-94.
Coffey is the Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students at the Milwaukee School of Engineering.
Officials say around 11 p.m., a Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office dispatch reported Coffey’s vehicle first travelling southbound in the northbound lanes of I-43 at National Ave. Multiple squads responded — and Racine Co. sheriff’s deputies were notified.
A Racine County deputy headed northbound intercepted the wrong-way driver near the county line. The subject pulled over, crashed into the median wall and attempted to back up and drive around the squad. The deputy used his squad to pin the vehicle against the wall.
Officials say Coffey struck two median walls, one in the Plainfield curve and the other just north of Ryan Road, prior to being stopped.
Former Milwaukee Police Officer Michael McGuire was returning home from Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood with his two kids in the car Thursday night when he noticed Coffey’s car coming right at him.
“All the sudden a car came under the bridge directly at me. He was in the median but partially in the left lane,” said McGuire.
McGuire said he instantly swerved to the right and is thankful there wasn’t another car there.
“He sailed past me, maybe a foot from my car. I called 911 and reported that. I immediately said a prayer of thanksgiving and prayed he didn’t kill anybody in the next few minutes,” said McGuire. “I’m going to tell you this fellow is a menace, an absolute menace.”
Coffey had a blood alcohol level of .19 — more than double the legal limit for driving. He said he had been drinking at Irish Fest.
Coffey has two prior Driving Under the Influence (DUI) convictions from March 2001 and February 2011.
Coffey will be charged with a Class F felony Recklessly Endangering Safety, which carries a penalty of up to 12 ½ years in prison, DUI-3rd with up to six months imprisonment, and Operating with Prohibited Alcohol Concentration with a penalty of up to one year imprisonment.
“People like that need to be locked up and put away. A third time offender going the wrong way on the freeway for miles? Should never have the opportunity again to get behind the wheel,” said McGuire.
Although McGuire is thankful he and his children were not harmed, he says he’s still angry over the senseless and selfish act of a drunk driver.
“At that moment and time, he’s worse than a serial killer. He’s so dangerous at that moment and time. He can take out a whole family,” McGuire said.
McGuire, who served as an officer for 27 years, has seen the damage a head-on collision can cause and says he wants laws changed so wrong-way drunk drivers are severely punished and never have the chance to drive again.
According to our partners at the Business Journal, Coffey joined MSOE as a professor in 1972 and became Dean of Students three years later.
FOX6 reached out to MSOE for a comment but the school refused, citing this is a personnel matter.