Charges filed in crash that killed owner of Hance Hardware on his 75th birthday

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 18, 2014 - 9:16 PM

A 20-year-old man was charged Friday with being under the influence of marijuana and an addictive prescription drug when he drove his SUV on the wrong side of a St. Louis Park street and killed a man driving the other way.

Killed Tuesday night was James Hance, of Brooklyn Park, longtime owner of Hance Hardware in downtown Hopkins. He died on his 75th birthday.

Jorge R. Juarez was charged in Hennepin County District Court with two counts of criminal vehicular homicide, one addressing being under the influence of a controlled substance and the other for allegedly driving in a grossly negligent manner. Juarez remains jailed in lieu of $150,000 bail.

Court records show that Juarez has been cited numerous times since June 2011 for various offenses, among them: driving without a license, failure to appear in court, driving after losing his privileges and selling a controlled substance.

Hance was the second-generation owner of the well-known hardware store and was still reporting to work every day as he had for decades.

“I’ve been working for him since 1985, right out of high school,” manager Arnold Ohotto said Thursday. “I can’t believe I’m not crying yet. He’s like a second dad to me.”

The store will close at 3 p.m. Saturday for Hance’s visitation and remain closed Sunday for Easter and all day Monday for funeral services.

Police said that Juarez was driving despite the revocation of his license and that he was under the influence of marijuana and a prescription drug.

According to the criminal complaint:

A woman driving west on Minnetonka Boulevard about 9:40 p.m. swerved to avoid Juarez heading east in an SUV. She saw in her rearview mirror that Juarez was “wholly in the westbound lane” when he struck Hance’s car head-on near Ensign Avenue.

Hance was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, where he died less than four hours later.

Juarez told officers at the crash scene that he had no memory of the crash and could not identify what street he was on.

He said he had just come from a friend’s house, where he was feeding his daily marijuana habit. Juarez also admitted taking Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug, and said he felt “high” while behind the wheel.

 

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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