MINNEAPOLIS — NHL enforcer Derek Boogaard had been out of drug rehab for just one day before his younger brother gave him an unprescribed narcotic pain pill at the start of an evening of night-clubbing, drug-taking and heavy drinking that resulted in his death, prosecutors alleged Friday.
A complaint filed in Hennepin County District Court said Aaron Boogaard, 24, told police he gave his brother a single oxycodone the night before he found Derek Boogaard dead in their Minneapolis apartment May 13. Derek Boogaard, 28, died of what authorities ruled was a toxic mix of alcohol and drugs.
The younger Boogaard was charged Friday with unlawful distribution of a controlled substance, a felony that also applies when narcotics are given away for free. He was also charged with interfering with the scene of a death for allegedly flushing the rest of his brother’s drug stash — a mix of oxycodone and related drugs — down the toilet before police arrived, the complaint alleged.
"This is a very tragic situation," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman told reporters. "Most of us know someone who’s had problems, troubles with alcohol or drugs. And most of us know that a person, the day they get out of treatment, shouldn’t receive for any reason the drugs that put him in treatment in the first place."
A lawyer for Aaron Boogaard said the entire family had suffered a tremendous loss.
"We will address the allegations in court rather than in the media, but note that Aaron was and remains devastated by his brother’s death," lawyer John W. Lundquist said in a statement Friday.
Assuming Boogaard has no criminal record, the state’s sentencing guidelines would call for 21 months of probation and no prison time, said Chuck Laszewski, a spokesman for the county attorney’s office.
Freeman said Derek Boogaard got out of a New York rehab centre just a day before he started using drugs again. He said Aaron Boogaard’s statements to police made it clear his brother did not take the pill to relieve pain, "but to prepare for a big night out," and that Derek Boogaard had the narcotics shipped home illegally from New York, without a prescription.
Derek Boogaard, who was one of hockey’s most feared enforcers and a fan favourite for the Minnesota Wild before joining the New York Rangers last summer, struggled with pain and addiction, his family acknowledged after his death.
"It’s our understanding that Aaron kept his brother’s non-prescribed illegal drugs and attempted to parcel them on some kind of limited basis," Freeman said. "… This was not the first time he had been in treatment. He had been in treatment before. And everyone around him should have known that you just simply can’t give this kind of drugs to a person who’s badly addicted."
Freeman said Aaron Boogaard will not face a more serious manslaughter or homicide charge because authorities can’t prove the single pill he told police he gave his brother directly caused his death.
The prosecutor said Derek Boogaard had "a lot" of Percocet, OxyContin and oxycodone in his system when he died, and consumed "a lot" of alcohol that night — too much to fairly charge Aaron Boogaard with more serious offences given that Derek Boogaard may have taken the additional drugs on his own, Freeman said.
The brothers shared an apartment in the Warehouse District of Minneapolis, not far from downtown. Aaron Boogaard found his brother’s body when he returned home after picking up another brother at the airport. Their parents, Len and Joanne Boogaard of Regina did not respond to messages from The Associated Press on Thursday or Friday seeking comment. On Thursday, the family issued a statement calling Aaron Boogaard’s arrest unfortunate and painful.
Bail for Aaron Boogaard was set at US$10,000 and jail records show he was released from the county jail Friday afternoon into the custody of another unspecified authority. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Minnesota had placed a detainer on Boogaard after his arrest.
Shawn Neudauer, a spokesman with the federal agency, issued a statement Friday saying Boogaard was transferred to ICE custody and granted release under bond, with a notice to appear before a federal immigration judge at a later date.
Aaron Boogaard was drafted by the Wild in 2004 but never played with them. He has bounced around various lower-level teams and has not appeared in the NHL.
Derek Boogaard, known as "The Boogeyman," was one of the most popular players on the Wild for his rough-and-tumble approach to the game. What the six-foot-seven, 265-pound forward lacked in skill and goal-scoring ability, he more than made up for with his fists. He was one of the most feared fighters during his six-year NHL career, racking up 589 penalty minutes in 277 career games. He left the Wild for a four-year deal with the Rangers last July and scored one goal in 22 games before his season was ended by a concussion five months before his death.
Boogaard’s family donated his brain to the Boston University School of Medicine, which planned to examine it as part of a broader study of head trauma in athletes for signs of a degenerative disease often found in athletes who sustain repeated hits to the head.