Restaurant that served Hancock faces no state penalties

Friday, June 29, 2007 | 9:31 p.m. CDT; updated 11:12 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

ST. LOUIS (AP) - The Missouri Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control will take no action against a restaurant that served St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock before the drunken-driving accident that led to his death.

In a report released Friday, the division said all information from witnesses indicated Hancock was "consuming intoxicating liquor in moderation" and was "very lucid" in the hours before he died.

A copy of the investigative report was turned over to St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce for her review, alcohol control State Supervisor Peter Lobdell said in a statement.

Lobdell announced May 31 there was no evidence that employees at Mike Shannon's Steaks & Seafood knew Hancock was drunk, but questions were raised about whether the agency had spoken to all the relevant witnesses.

Since then, investigators contacted witnesses they had not reached previously, including restaurant patron Vince Winkel and ESPN commentator Dave Campbell.

Winkel had told several media outlets in St. Louis he believed Hancock was clearly intoxicated.

In the alcohol control report, Winkel said he saw Hancock consume about three or four drinks and at one point saw the player "steadying himself against the bar with his left hand."

Winkel's wife, Deborah Lee Aitken, told investigators she overheard Hancock talking to a woman around 10:30 p.m. who "may have been an employee of Mike Shannon's" and told her husband "she felt sorry for him (Hancock) because he was slurring his words."

Campbell told investigators he saw no indication Hancock was drunk or unsteady on his feet.

Campbell said Hancock bought him a glass of wine, but when Campbell went to return the favor, Hancock declined the drink.

On May 23, investigators spoke with two St. Louis Cardinals players who had also been at the restaurant that night, Adam Kennedy and Brad Thompson. Both said Hancock did not appear impaired.

Thompson was having dinner with an out-of-town friend.

Kennedy said he was with a large group of friends. He said he requested that Hancock's tab be included with his, and records indicated he closed out his check at 10:46 p.m.

The purchase total was $186.50. Kennedy left an additional $200 tip.

Investigators found that Hancock closed his tab at 12:01 a.m. on April 29. He had a $25 liquor bill and left a $25 tip. A bartender told them Hancock was not given any complimentary drinks.

Investigators said they don't know whether Hancock went to another establishment before the crash.

Hancock, 29, spent more than three hours at Mike Shannon's restaurant in St. Louis the night of April 28. In the early hours of April 29, he was driving alone when his sport utility vehicle struck the back of a flatbed tow truck that was stopped in a driving lane of Interstate 64 assisting a stalled car. Hancock was killed instantly. No one else was hurt.

Police said Hancock had a blood alcohol level of 0.157, nearly twice Missouri's legal limit of 0.08. According to police, he was also speeding, using a cell phone and not wearing a seat belt.

The alcohol control report also said investigators were unable to reach a woman who is listed in the police report as being on the phone with Hancock when the conversation abruptly ended at 12:42 a.m., the time of the crash.

Investigators said she was employed at the time of the accident by the Penthouse Club, a strip club in Sauget, Ill. They tried to speak with her but were unsuccessful.

Police have said a small amount of marijuana was also found in the car, but toxicology tests showed Hancock was not under the influence of marijuana at the time of his death.

Hancock's father, Dean Hancock, of Tupelo, Miss., filed a lawsuit in May against Mike Shannon's restaurant and the restaurant's manager, Patricia Van Matre. She is the daughter of Mike Shannon, the longtime Cardinals broadcaster who played on three World Series teams in the 1960s.

It claims the restaurant provided drinks to Hancock even though he was intoxicated. The lawsuit also names the tow truck company and operator and the owner of the stalled car.

A phone message was left at Mike Shannon's restaurant seeking comment.

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