A man was drunk when he ran into a group walking along a Dinkytown road, police said. Kandyce Stoffel, 23, was a class shy of graduation.
Headed home after a night out in Dinkytown, a group of friends skirted a construction site blocking the sidewalk and continued along the road's edge, walking unwittingly into the path of an allegedly drunken driver who slammed into the group, leaving a young woman dead and a man badly hurt.
Kandyce Stoffel, 23, of Mound, died Monday after being struck about 3 a.m. Sunday near 12th Avenue and 4th Street SE. in Minneapolis.
The driver, John R. Peterson, 23, of Maplewood, was charged Tuesday with criminal-vehicular homicide and criminal-vehicular operation and remains jailed in lieu of $150,000 bail.
A woman who saw the collision said Peterson's car seemed to be traveling too fast. "I started realizing what was happening when the car slammed on its brakes," said Casey Taube, who watched from across the street. "It skidded for quite a while, and it kept sliding even as it was hitting them."
Brittany Baron said she was just five steps ahead of Stoffel and Travis Smith, 25, of Bloomington, when they were both struck by the car. "I saw a body fly," she said. Her friends were both knocked out by the collision, but Smith came to a short time later, she said. He has since been released from the hospital.
Baron said Stoffel had planned to stay with her that night rather than go back to her house in Mound.
"She was an amazing person," Baron said. "She was beautiful inside and out. She had the greatest smile and the funniest laugh." Stoeffel was just one class away from completing her bachelor's degree, Baron said.
She was majoring in kinesiology and had recently begun an internship with the Minnesota Timberwolves, where she and Smith were both working in sales. Stoffel was the niece of Becky Taylor, the wife of Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor.
"She's a very likable, outgoing type of gal," said Glen Taylor, who said Stoffel had been considering a career in real estate.
Stoffel was a standout track athlete at Mankato West High School and recently helped coach jumpers at St. Paul Arlington High School, which has since closed.
The university announced Tuesday afternoon that the College of Education and Human Development decided to confer Stoffel's degree posthumously.
One witness told police Peterson and Stoffel might have encountered each other earlier in the evening when he unsuccessfully approached her in a bar, but his friends said he was working elsewhere in the city until 2 a.m.
Looking back on her friend's death, Baron said she wished Peterson hadn't been drinking and driving but also wondered about the closed sidewalk that led pedestrians to walk along the side of the road.
"Being in Dinkytown, everybody walks," she said. "That's the main way everybody gets around."
Smith said: "We were in a lane that said right lane closed. He was in the lane and hit us. He hit us from behind."
The construction project that forced the students into the road is a block of new student housing with concrete jersey barriers and wire fencing erected around its edge -- the sidewalk on that side of the road is unreachable as a result. A sign where the sidewalk stops says that the right lane of the three-lane roadway is closed to traffic, but drivers mostly ignored the sign on Tuesday afternoon. A pedestrian walking the edge of the road along the construction project would have a few feet at most separating them from passing cars.
According to the criminal complaint:
Peterson's car was at the intersection with severe front-end damage after it hit Stoffel and Smith as they walked along the edge of the street. Peterson told a paramedic that he was driving but only admitted to police that he was the car's owner.
A witness reported seeing Peterson attempting to "hit on" Stoffel at the bar, making her uncomfortable with the advances.
At the crash scene, Peterson smelled of alcohol, his speech was slurred, and his eyes were bloodshot and watery. In a preliminary breath test, Peterson's blood-alcohol content was measured at 0.164 percent, more than twice the legal limit for driving in Minnesota.
Stoffel was placed on life support Sunday at the Hennepin County Medical Center, but died the next day. She was an organ donor, which was something she and her father both felt strongly about, according to University of Minnesota spokesman Dan Wolter. "It was very important to her and to him," said Wolter.
Her family has planned a visitation from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Mankato. A memorial service will take place Friday at 1 p.m.
"Her unforgettable laugh will be greatly missed," an obituary notice read.
Matt McKinney • 612-217-1747