Woman fatally struck by Green Line train was Minneapolis attorney

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 2, 2014 - 10:15 PM

Shana G. Buchanan, 42, practiced in criminal defense, other areas.

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In St. Paul at the Westgate Station, a woman was struck and killed by a Green Line train on Sunday morning.

Photo: Star Tribune, Richard Tsong-Taatarii

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Authorities on Tuesday identified the woman who was hit and killed by a light-rail train over the weekend when she crossed the tracks in Minneapolis while wearing headphones.

Shana G. Buchanan, 42, an attorney who lived a few blocks from the scene, was struck about 10:15 a.m. Sunday near the Westgate station, near the border between Minneapolis and St. Paul, according to the Hennepin County medical examiner’s office.

While it is clear that Buchanan suffered extensive injuries when she was hit and quickly declared dead at the scene, the examiner’s office said the cause and manner of her death “are pending at this time.”

Buchanan practiced law in various areas including criminal defense, said her father, Tom Lohse. She also taught elementary school for a time in the Minneapolis School District, he said.

Buchanan’s law license was on “disability inactive status,” stemming from a finding in October 2012 by the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility that she was having serious mental health difficulties.

“She was over Saturday night and talked to us,” said Lohse, who lives in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood of St. Paul. “Everything was great.”

Among her survivors is a 14-year-old son. Lohse said Buchanan’s death has been “beyond tough” for the son.

“You have no idea how tough until it happens,” the father added. “We’re just devastated.”

Gary Wolf, a Minneapolis attorney who partnered on several criminal cases with Buchanan, said Tuesday that her death is “so tragic. She was a brilliant lawyer.”

Among the more high-profile cases Buchanan worked on was the murder trial in 2007 of Darryl D. Johnson, who was sentenced at age 18 for the murder in north Minneapolis of 15-year-old Courtney Brown for the victim’s basketball jersey.

Buchanan got her law degree from the William Mitchell College of Law and her undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota, Lohse said. She graduated high school from St. Paul Central.

Lohse said his daughter made a habit of using headphones connected to her cellphone and was a regular user of the Green Line.

Jill Janovitz, who was on the train that struck Buchanan, said she saw emergency responders “pry her cellphone or [some] other small device out of her hands.”

Transit official Bruce Howard said Buchanan walked up the concrete ramp to the station and tried to cross the tracks at the station’s crosswalk. But despite the flashing red warning lights, a flashing sign and bells, she stepped directly into the path of the eastbound Green Line train.

Howard said Metro Transit cautions its riders to avoid wearing headphones, talking on cellphones or texting while around trains.

The most recent fatality, on the Hiawatha Avenue Blue Line, was June 20 at the intersection of East 35th Street in Minneapolis. Transit officials said then that 11 people had been killed by light-rail trains since they began running in Minneapolis a decade ago. Most were pedestrians; a few involved people who drove around lowered stop-arms and tried to beat the trains across the tracks.

Sunday’s incident was the first fatality on the Green Line light rail route since it began operating on June 14. Howard said there have been 13 “minor” incidents on the route.

On Aug. 25, a man was hit by a westbound Green Line train and injured at the intersection of University Avenue and Chatsworth Street in St. Paul. A preliminary investigation by Metro Transit police found that the pedestrian, who was not identified, was illegally walking between the eastbound and westbound tracks. His injuries were not critical.

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