Minneapolis police reopen cold case of fatal hit and run that killed cyclist James "Jimmy” Nisser

  • Article by: MATT MCKINNEY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 13, 2014 - 10:07 PM
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Jimmy Nisser was killed in a hit-and-run accident while riding his bicycle.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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The driver has never been found in the hit-and-run collision that killed James “Jimmy” Nisser, 65, a beloved member of his St. Louis Park community who was struck in 2008 while cycling to work.

A passer-by found Nisser lying in Excelsior Boulevard near the Minikahda Club where he was headed, but the driver of the vehicle that hit him was gone, said Minneapolis police Lt. Chris Hudok, who on Thursday announced a new reward for information and a renewed police focus on the case.

Evidence left at the scene points to a 1996 to 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee that’s tan or light brown, Hudok said Thursday.

“If anybody from an auto repair place remembers working on a similar vehicle from shortly after that date, hopefully they will have some information for us,” he said.

Hudok made the announcement about Nisser’s case while at the same time urging bikers and drivers to use caution as cyclists return to roads this spring.

“Be aware of each other,” he said of cyclists and drivers.

Crime Stoppers of Minnesota is offering a reward of up to $1,000 in the Nisser case.

Nisser, 65, was one of four Twin Cities cyclists struck and killed by motor vehicles in September 2008. The deaths sparked a safety rally in which hundreds of bicyclists rode from St. Paul to Minneapolis while stopping at the sites where the cyclists had been struck. Also killed that month were Dale Aanenson, Nicholas Morton and Virginia Heuer.

After September 2008, seven other bicyclists were killed in the Twin Cities, most recently Marcus Nalls, an experienced cyclist who was struck and killed Feb. 3 by an allegedly drunken driver.

Relatives and friends recalled Nisser at the time of his death as a gentle spirit who made the coffee every Sunday at Wooddale Lutheran Church in St. Louis Park. As a child with cerebral palsy, Nisser grew up with the diagnosis that he would be lucky to walk. He defied the diagnosis and grew up riding a fleet of Raleigh bicycles, picking out his “rain bike” on the morning of the collision because of the weather.

Like Nalls, he was wearing a helmet and had lights on his bike, according to authorities.

Nisser had almost made it to the Minikahda Club, where he had worked for 45 years, when he was struck about 4:15 a.m. on eastbound Excelsior Boulevard near W. 32nd Street. A “ghost bike” erected at the site was left for months as a memorial before it was removed and stored at the club.

Minikahda General Manager Jim Jennings said Thursday that it was difficult to believe it’s been more than five years since Nisser’s death.

“I’m glad they’re reopening it, and hopefully something will come out of that,” he said of the inquiry. The club honors Nisser every year at the annual holiday party with the Jimmy Nisser Award, which goes to the employee who best exemplifies Nisser’s spirit.

“He was a very loyal and very dedicated employee,” Jennings said. “We miss him.”

Matt McKinney • 612-217-1747

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  • Jimmy Nisser was killed in a hit-and-run accident while riding his bicycle.

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