PLYMOUTH, Minn. (WCCO) — A Plymouth, Minn. Vietnam veteran says an undiagnosed brain tumor caused by exposure to the Agent Orange herbicide triggered a seizure that caused him to go through a red light and crash into another vehicle, injuring the driver.
Sixty-two-year-old Terry Johnson was arrested and charged after the crash in November of 2008 in Chanhassen. At the time, he was on the way home from a bar where he said he consumed four beers with a friend, but insists he was not drunk.
A urine test showed he was at .06, just short of the .08 limit to legally drive. Johnson was charged with criminal vehicular operation, DWI and careless driving. A State Patrol trooper said he had bloodshot and glassy eyes when he talked with him after the crash at the intersection of Highway 101 and Highway 5.
After Johnson was released from jail, his wife took him to a doctor, thinking he had a concussion.
“I still have no recollection whatsoever of what occurred,” said Johnson.
He said he was shocked to learn he had cancerous tumors in his brain and chest.
“They took a piece of my skull out,” he said.
His oncologist was scheduled to testify for him as a defense witness at a trial set for Tuesday. In a letter, the doctor wrote Johnson had “a blackout spell, most likely due to a seizure,” when he pulled into the intersection after first stopping for the red light.
Chuck Ramsay is Johnson’s attorney.
“The cancer Mr. Johnson has is consistent with Agent Orange,” he said. “It was the tumor that caused the accident, according to his doctor, not the limited amount of alcohol they found in his urine.”
Just before the trial was set to begin, the prosecution offered a plea that Johnson accepted. He agreed to plead guilty to careless driving and pay a fine and restitution. In return, the more serious charges of criminal vehicular operation and DWI were dropped.
Johnson’s attorney said Johnson was happy and relieved with the resolution of the case. He hopes his unexpected cancer diagnosis will prompt other Vietnam and Korean veterans to contact the VA to see if they should be screened for possible Agent Orange health issues.
For more information about Agent Orange-related health issues, click here.
WCCO-TV’s Caroline Lowe Reports