Cole Fohrenkamm charged with two counts of homicide following friend's car-surfing death

Despite pleas from Swanson's mom, Fohrenkamm (left) faces decades in prison in connection with his friend's (right) death.
Despite pleas from Swanson's mom, Fohrenkamm (left) faces decades in prison in connection with his friend's (right) death.

On August 11, Shawn Swanson, a 21-year-old St. Paul resident, died when he fell off a car and suffered a massive head injury while car-surfing in rural Burnett County, Wisconsin. The driver of the vehicle was Swanson's friend, fellow St. Paul resident Cole Fohrenkamm.

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Days after the accident, Swanson's mother, Renee Swanson, told the Pioneer Press she hoped Fohrenkamm wouldn't face criminal charges, characterizing her son's death as "an accident" and "boys doing boy stuff." But she won't get her wish, as Fohrenkamm, 21, has been charged with three felonies, including two counts of homicide.

Detroit Lakes-Online provides background info about what happened after 11:30 p.m. last August 11 after Swanson climbed atop the vehicle Fohrenkamm was driving:

Fohrenkamm, Swanson, Kyle Anthony Miller and others were traveling along Glendenning Road in Oakland Town. They had stopped, Swanson climbed on the vehicle and Fohrenkamm pulled away. Steven Lee Uhl Jr. also climbed onto the outside of the vehicle.

After driving from a logging road onto Glendenning Road, Fohrenkamm "increased his speed to about 40 miles per hour," the complaint said. "Steven Lee Uhl stated the defendant was also weaving the vehicle side to side during this time, which is consistent with a 'car-surfing' series of maneuvers, a prank which seemed to be designed to test the ability of the 'surfers,' in this case Shawn and Steven Lee Uhl, to remain on the vehicle."

Swanson fell from the vehicle and, after Fohrenkamm stopped and turned around, was found lying on the road not moving. According to the complaint, he had suffered a severe injury to the back of his head. Since none of the men had a cell phone, they loaded him into the vehicle and drove to the St. Croix Casino in Danbury for help.

Fohrenkamm later blew a .116 and had THC in his system.

During her tearful Pioneer Press interview, Renee Swanson said Fohrenkamm's predicament is "very sad, because he's got to live with this for the rest of his life."

"They just heard [Shawn] up there laughing and having a good time and then he fell... I don't want to see any jail time for [Fohrenkamm]," she added.

Fohrenkamm has been charged with homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle, first-degree recklessly endangering safety, and homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle. The first change carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison, the second 12 and a half years, and the last 10 years. He's currently free on bail, with his next court appearance in Burnett County scheduled for December 19.

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