Suspect shot dead after carjacking, police chase

  • Article by: CHAO XIONG and PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune s taff w riters
  • Updated: April 7, 2011 - 9:52 PM

Authorities released few details about the incident, which began in Minneapolis and ended near Forest Lake.

The well-dressed man waved down the Red and White Taxi cab at a major intersection in south Minneapolis early Thursday and gave the driver an apparently bogus address in the north metro.

It was about 5 a.m. He smelled of alcohol but didn't appear drunk, said Pat White, general manager of Red and White Taxi. The driver thought the man looked like a professional going home after a late night at the office, but in minutes the cabdriver had a gun pressed against his head. The suspect ordered the cabdriver out of the car and then led authorities on a 40-minute chase across the metro before being shot and killed by police.

Authorities provided few details about the case, declining to discuss a possible motive or the last moments of the pursuit in which the suspect faced off with six law enforcement officials on northbound Interstate 35E just south of Forest Lake.

It's unclear how many of the officers fired their guns and whether the suspect fired his gun or threatened the officers.

Dave Bjerga, superintendent of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, said authorities would not reveal much more until the officers -- three State Patrol troopers, two Brooklyn Park police officers and one Minneapolis police officer -- were interviewed.

"There's a lot of information that needs to be collected here, and in fairness of everyone involved in this incident, we need to make sure that the information is accurate and complete," he said.

Authorities are reviewing camera footage taken from squad cars.

The suspect's identity has not been released, pending an autopsy and notification of relatives. An ambulance carrying his body left the scene of the shooting about 10 a.m. as investigators searched the area for evidence, closing the northbound lanes of I-35E until early afternoon.

No one else was injured.

According to White: The cabdriver grew suspicious of the suspect because he knew the address was fake. The driver asked the suspect how he intended to pay, and the suspect said with a credit card. They were in the Lowry Tunnel on Interstate 94 when the suspect then suddenly pressed a gun to the driver's head, ordered him out, robbed him and took off in the cab.

"He told him to get out of the car or he was going to kill him," White said.

Authorities pursued the suspect across the metro until the stolen cab hit spike strips authorities had laid across I-35E at 80th Street in Columbus, sending it into a ditch. Police shot and killed the man while approaching the vehicle, according to the state Department of Public Safety.

A gun allegedly used by the suspect was recovered at the scene.

Authorities said the pursuit reached high speeds but declined to say how fast.

"We are fortunate, and in fact the public is very fortunate," that no one was hurt, Bjerga said. "It's quite a lengthy chase."

The cabdriver, who has been with Red and White for a few months, is doing fine, White said.

"He was in very good shape physically and mentally," White said. "He did everything right. He was calm and collected."

The driver, a Minneapolis man in his early 30s who was not identified, spent the day at home after the incident but planned to return to work Friday, White said.

All of Red and White Taxi's 52 cabs have an emergency button that when pressed freezes all computer screens at the company's Franklin Street office, warning of a "driver emergency." The cab's location is also mapped automatically so dispatchers can call for help. The carjacking Thursday occurred so quickly that the driver did not have time to react, White said.

The officers were placed on standard administrative leave, which is routine practice.

cxiong@startribune.com • 612-270-4708 Follow Chao on Twiter: @ChaoStrib pwalsh@startribune.com • 612-673-4482

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