101-year-old St. Paul woman dies after being struck by police squad

  • Article by: CHAO XIONG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 22, 2013 - 10:59 PM

Survivor of World War II horrors in Russia was mortally injured while crossing a street in St. Paul.

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Roza Sakhina was killed after being hit by a St. Paul police squad car.

Photo: Photo provided by Ilya Finkelshteyn,

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Roza Sakhina lived through the Russian Revolution, Stalin’s terror and survived the 872-day siege of Leningrad during World War II before she landed in St. Paul in 1991. At 101, she still went on daily walks — even in the winter — in her Highland Park neighborhood.

“She lived on her own with very minimal help,” said her grandson Ilya Finkelshteyn. “Walked every day. Cooked for herself. Read lots.”

On one of her walks last Friday, a St. Paul police squad car backed into her as she crossed the street. Sakhina died Wednesday from the injuries she sustained in that accident, having never regained consciousness after arriving at Regions Hospital, according to her grandson.

Police have released few details of the accident, citing a continuing investigation, and declined to name the officer involved.

Sgt. Paul Paulos, a police spokesman, said Thursday the officer was in the 800 block of S. Cleveland Avenue for a juvenile disturbance call when the accident occurred. The officer was backing up the squad car when it “either nudged or bumped” Sakhina, Paulos said.

“She [fell] to the ground,” he said. “At that time, we didn’t know how serious the injuries would be.”

Paulos said the officer was not heading to another call when Sakhina was struck.

The Ramsey County medical examiner’s office has not released the cause of Sakhina’s death.

Finkelshteyn said his grandmother suffered a skull fracture, rib fracture, internal bleeding and “quite a bit of bruising.”

Sakhina lived for years at the public housing high-rise at 899 S. Cleveland Av. A woman who lives in an apartment complex across the street said Sakhina, whom she described as under 5 feet tall, was struck by the police SUV in the early afternoon.

Sue Chicone’s apartment overlooks the accident scene. Chicone said she saw the SUV, parked at an angle to the sidewalk on the east side of Cleveland, back into Sakhina as she crossed the middle of the street. Sakhina was crossing west to east with the aid of a walker, her high-rise behind her and Chicone’s apartment complex in front of her.

Four other police squads were parked parallel to the sidewalk.

“Her head was gushing, gushing blood,” Chicone said.

Sakhina struggled to get up, but another elderly woman comforted her and encouraged her to lie down, said Chicone.

Police said the officer involved was placed on standard three-day paid administrative leave. The officer’s name will likely be released Friday, Paulos said. Police will investigate the accident and forward it to the Ramsey County attorney’s office to review possible charges.

“We’re putting together a full investigation,” Paulos said.

Finkelshteyn said he didn’t want to address the officer’s actions in his grandmother’s case.

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  • Nina Gabay, left, and Galina Van Ravenhorst mourned Roza Sakhina on Thursday. Friends remember her as independent and sharp-witted.

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