Family says they're not satisfied with sentence for driver who hit kids on playground

Minnesota State Patrol investigates the scene.
Kabaar Powell was sentenced Thursday to 33 months in prison after he crashed into a Minneapolis playground while fleeing police in June. Three young siblings were injured.
Elizabeth Flores | Star Tribune via AP file

Updated: 3:50 p.m. | Posted: 1:10 p.m.

A driver who crashed into a Minneapolis playground while fleeing police in June, injuring three young siblings, was sentenced Thursday to 33 months in prison. He may be eligible for supervised release after less than two years in prison.

Kabaar Powell, 27, of Richfield, was sentenced in State District Court in Hennepin County. He pleaded guilty last month to two counts: one count of fleeing a police officer resulting in great bodily harm, and one count of fleeing a police officer resulting in substantial bodily harm.

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State troopers tried to stop Powell for speeding on Interstate 94 on June 11, but authorities said he tried to flee. Powell pulled off the freeway at 53rd Avenue, blew through at least 22 stop signs, and raced along residential streets at upwards of 80 miles an hour before veering into Bohanon Park.

Powell crashed into the basketball court where Kyle Peltier was playing with two of his children. According to the criminal complaint, squad car video shows Peltier trying to get 2-year-old Kayden and 4-year-old Lilliana out of the way just four seconds before Powell hit them. In court Thursday morning, Peltier said Powell's recklessness that day changed their lives forever.

Kabaar Powell
Kabaar Powell.
Hennepin County Sheriff's Office via AP

"It just costs so much pain and agony daily, just dealing with everyday life. We have a rough life now. It was easier, but now it's rough," Peltier said.

Kayden, 2, had to have his spleen removed and suffered a spinal fracture, among other injuries. He was hospitalized for weeks. Lillianna, 4, suffered bleeding between the brain and the tissue covering the brain.

Konnor, 3, was also taken to the hospital but was not hurt as badly as his two siblings.

Fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle is a felony in Minnesota, but the standard sentence is probation. Prosecutors requested prison time because Powell admitted to aggravating factors including driving without a license, speeding in a school zone and running stop signs.

Powell did not make a statement at his sentencing. He sat quietly at the defense table. However public defender Paula Brummel promised her client will make amends.

"When your actions or your decisions cause another person harm, the most difficult but honorable things that you can do are admit it, take responsibility for it and accept the consequences," Brummel said.

After the hearing, the children's grandfather Tim Brinkley said he'd hoped Powell would have at least acknowledged his victims.

"It would have measured in volumes in a positive light if he could have just glanced over and said anything at all remorseful," Brinkley said. "There was nothing apologetic in his manner, and that hurts."

The children's parents also addressed the courtroom before the sentence was handed down.

"I watched helplessly as my children were ran over," Kyle Peltier, said in court. "It runs through my head daily. I wake up every day thinking, 'Why? Why Kayden, why Lilly, why Konnor? Why our family? It just doesn't make any sense. ... Kids deserve to be safe at a playground. It's just caused so much pain and agony daily, just dealing with everyday life."

The Peltiers say they wish state law would have allowed the judge to hand Powell a longer sentence.

"I don't think it's harsh enough," Nicolle Peltier, the children's mother, said.

"Not at all," said Kyle Peltier "It's ridiculous if you ask me. Kayden's going to have to live with this forever. He's going to have his physical impairments, his mental impairments, his brain injury is never going to go away."

The Peltiers say they plan to sue Powell, along with the State Patrol. They say troopers missed an opportunity to apprehend Powell for driving without a license three days before the crash.

After the incident, the State Patrol opened an investigation into whether the troopers abided by the agency's chase guidelines when they pursued Powell that morning. A Department of Public Safety spokesperson says that investigation remains open.

Powell hasn't had a valid driver's license since 2014, a department spokesperson said.