A fatal chase through downtown Minneapolis early Monday morning ended a grim weekend on Minnesota roads.
Officials said eight people were killed in crashes since Friday afternoon, making it the second-deadliest weekend of 2013. The toll included two people killed when their car hit farm machinery parked on the side of the road near Olivia. An 8-year-old boy Brooklyn Park boy was killed Friday when he was hit by an SUV while riding a scooter in New Germany.
The number of dead hit eight when a suspected drunken driver hit a car in Minneapolis after a police chase through downtown.
The driver in that crash was driving with a suspended license as he led a state trooper on a high-speed chase through downtown, authorities said.
The Minnesota State Patrol said the driver, a 34-year-old St. Paul man was pulled over on westbound Interstate 94 near the 11th Street exit in Minneapolis just before 1 a.m. The trooper reported that he'd stopped the car for suspicion of drunken driving, but that the car fled and accelerated away as the trooper approached.
The trooper pursued the car through downtown Minneapolis. The patrol said the trooper also tried four times to stop the pursuit using a so-called "pursuit intervention technique" maneuver that involves bumping a fleeing car to force it to spin out.
"The trooper made numerous attempts to end this safely, despite the obvious intentions of the suspect of not doing what would make sense, and the safe thing for everyone, and just stopping," said State Patrol spokesman Lt. Eric Roeske.
Instead, the fleeing car slammed broadside into another car at the intersection of 4th St. SE and Central Avenue, just across the Mississippi River from downtown Minneapolis. The crash killed the driver of the other car, 20-year-old Brody Sotona. His passenger, Connor Macklin, 24, of Stillwater, was seriously injured.
The driver was taken into custody, and Roeske said he appeared to be under the influence of alcohol. Investigators obtained a search warrant and took a blood sample, but his blood alcohol level wasn't immediately available from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. "There's a number of convictions on his driving record," Roeske said, although he did provide details of the charges.
Roeske defended the pursuit, saying the trooper had to weigh the risk of engaging in a pursuit versus letting a suspected drunken driver continue driving. He said the whole incident lasted just over three minutes.
"Drunk drivers kill over 100 people a year. Do you let them go? Or do you try to stop them? But in the very short time...there was a very small window of opportunity to determine what action should be taken. Ultimately, it's the responsibility of the driver," Roeske said.
Roeske did say that the case will be reviewed, as are other pursuits by troopers. Three years ago, a State Patrol chase of a suspected stolen car ended when the suspect hit a Fridley woman, killing her and her two sons.
"We review every one of these situations and if there's something that we see that should be addressed through training, we'd consider that," Roeske said.
The Minnesota State Patrol is doing the reconstruction of the crash. The Hennepin County Sheriff's office is conducting the investigation of the incident.
Of the eight people killed on Minnesota roads over the weekend, nearly half were motorcyclists.
One motorcyclist was killed on Friday and two others on Sunday, bringing the toll among rider to 53 for the year, nearly matching the 55 riders killed in all of last year.
"At the rate we're going it's very likely that this year will be new record for motorcyclists deer crash fatalities," said Bill Shaffer with the state's Motorcycle Safety Center.
Most crashes are caused by driver errors, he added. "The biggest thing we've seen in those crashes is riders failing to negotiate curves ... people riding over their skill level, riding a little too fast."
The deadly crashes started on Friday afternoon, when a 60-year-old Moorhead woman was killed when she drove across the centerline and hit an oncoming SUV driven by a Pelican Rapids man.
The weekend was second only to the first weekend in April, when 10 people died on Minnesota roads.
"Obviously very disturbing, and really speaks to the things we talk about throughout the summer," Roeske said. "It's the most deadly time of the year. They almost always involve speed, alcohol, seat belts or inattention."