A man fleeing from police died early Tuesday after crashing his stolen car into a stoplight pole in south Minneapolis.

The police account of the crash starts at 1:45 a.m., when two officers on patrol reported that they attempted to stop a 2005 Honda Civic for an equipment violation at 31st Street and Stevens Avenue S.

The driver pulled into oncoming traffic and fled east on 31st. Less than a minute later, he crashed.

The driver was identified Tuesday evening as Steven R. Jennings, 46. Authorities said he had no permanent address.

Tire marks at the scene suggest the Civic, which had been stolen, was traveling fast just before it entered the intersection of 31st Street and Chicago Avenue S.

The road jogs a short distance at that intersection as it winds around Mount Olive Lutheran Church. The Civic slammed into a light pole on the east side of Chicago Avenue directly in front of the church.

Witness Skyler Weislogel said he and a roommate watched from the third floor of their house as police officers attended to the driver.

"He wasn't moving," said Weislogel, a specialist in the Army Reserve who has done two tours each in Iraq and Afghanistan. The fatal crash took place just across the street from his front porch.

"I go overseas and deal with this stuff, and then you come back and you're still surrounded with it," he said Tuesday.

Officers were a block to a block and a half behind the vehicle when it crashed, according to police spokesman Sgt. Bill Palmer. While an investigation is underway, Palmer said the pursuit ended so quickly that there may not have been time for officers to work through the pursuit protocol called for in the Minneapolis Police Department Policy and Procedure Manual.

Typically an officer would notify the dispatcher of the location, speed, direction of travel and reason for pursuit. A pursuit supervisor then takes charge, weighing the risks to the public as they determine whether to continue, according to the manual.

In this case the dispatcher had just reported that the vehicle wasn't stopping, that it had crossed 5th Avenue S. and then that it had crashed.

"That's not really enough time to terminate a pursuit," Palmer said.

The car had been stolen from southwest Minneapolis. The owner hadn't known the vehicle was missing until police contacted him.

pwalsh@startribune.com • 612-673-4482 mckinney@startribune.com • 612-673-7329