Questions remain after fatal police chase in Minneapolis

  • Article by: TERRY COLLINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 14, 2008 - 2:27 PM

Loved ones and some in the Somali community wonder whether a police pursuit was necessary.

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Osman Akubar was consoled during his wife’s funeral Monday at a cemetery in Burnsville. Hanna Abukar died when a teen driving a stolen vehicle crashed into her car Sunday.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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As Hanna Abukar was laid to rest Monday, members of the Somali community were questioning the police chase that preceded her death a day earlier in south Minneapolis.

"There's anger and a total lack of understanding what happened and why did it happen," Omar Jamal, executive director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center, said following Abukar's funeral. "It's a very difficult situation right now."

Minneapolis police are still investigating the pursuit in which a 15-year-old boy who had been fleeing officers at high speeds in a stolen vehicle crashed into a car driven by Abukar at Lake Street and Stevens Avenue S. around 8 a.m. Sunday morning.

A police supervisor had called off the 12-block chase for public safety reasons about a half-mile before the crash that killed Abukar, 26, and injured her son and another boy as they were heading to Sunday school at a mosque. The boys remain hospitalized in critical and stable conditions, respectively.

On Monday, police released the names of three veteran officers involved in the chase: Thomas Mack, Jonathan Petron and Eric Shogren. The officers, who work in the Third Precinct, have been put on standard administrative leave.

The teen -- who fled the scene but later was arrested at a nearby Kmart -- remains in custody. Criminal charges, ranging from criminal vehicular homicide to auto theft, could come as early as today, said police spokesman Sgt. William Palmer. The teen also could face a more serious charge of fleeing a scene that involved a death, Palmer said.

Police have not release information on why the boy stole the car and whether he has a prior record.

Dozens attended a service for Abukar on Monday, as Muslim tradition calls for burial within 24 hours. Under gray skies, several chanted prayers over her gravesite in Burnsville. Within minutes, they shoveled mounds of dirt over the married mother of two children.

Her grieving husband, Osman Abukar, could be seen shaking his head in disbelief as he received numerous hugs from mourners. He declined to talk publicly about his wife out of respect for the traditional Islamic mourning period of at least three days.

Jamal said he's received countless calls from local Somalis and others wondering if such a pursuit was necessary.

"That's what the community is asking," Jamal said. "We will deal with that soon."

Those who knew Hanna Abukar described her as a loving and caring person.

A benefit will be held in her honor at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Doubletree Park Place hotel in St. Louis Park, 1500 Park Place Blvd., where she worked, Jamal said.

Terry Collins • 612-673-1790

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