Hometown relatives and big-city neighbors of a 24-year-old Minneapolis woman who died after being struck on her bicycle Wednesday by a hit-and-run driver vowed Friday night to bring the power of a neighborhood to the task of solving the crime.
“We’re not out for blood. We’re out for justice,” Jerome Hanson of Hoffman, Minn., the father of Jessica Hanson, told about 30 people who gathered at the corner of 28th Street and Pleasant Avenue S., where Jessica Hanson was hit late Wednesday night. “If someone would come to the police, it would be better for that person, and for us.”
Jessica Hanson, a server at Republic, an Uptown bar, had been on her way to her boyfriend’s house about 10:30 p.m. when she was struck at the intersection. She was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center and was pronounced dead Friday.
Police said the vehicle that hit her had been driving faster than the speed limit with its lights off and ran the stop sign when it hit Hanson and fled. Police have no solid description of the vehicle. Hanson was not wearing her helmet, according to friends and family members.
The family, including her mother, a State Patrol officer, came from Hoffman and Kensington, two west-central Minnesota cities whose combined population is less than 1,000, to talk to police, visit the scene and talk to anyone who might have seen something.
Touched by support
Tom Kummrow of Kensington, Hanson’s uncle, said they were stunned by the sympathy, support and determination from neighbors, some of whom had rushed to the accident scene and tried to help before emergency workers arrived. Many came out to the corner to hug Hanson’s family members Friday.
“You couldn’t talk to her without her mentioning she lived in Uptown,” Kummrow said. “She was the kind of girl who just wanted to spread her wings and go to the big city. Some of us couldn’t understand that. Now we know.”
Kummrow said he, family and neighbors are convinced that someone, perhaps someone in the neighborhood, knows they hit Jessica Hanson Wednesday night, but may not know she was killed. Getting the news out in social and traditional media will add pressure, Kummrow said.
“What was he thinking? Why did he take a life? We need to know that, for Jess,” Kummrow said.
The hit-and-run death was the second of this bicycling season in south Minneapolis. On March 30, Elyse Mary Stern, 28, of Minneapolis, was killed at the intersection of E. Lake Street and Cedar Avenue. Juan Ricardo Hernandez-Campoceco, 26, pleaded guilty to felony hit-and-run and fourth-degree driving-while-intoxicated in that incident and is scheduled to be sentenced Monday.
Susan Priem, a board member of the Minnesota Bicycle Coalition, said the deaths are surprising, since an increase in the number of bicycles, as has been seen in the Twin Cities, often translates into fewer accidents as awareness between bicyclists and drivers increases.
But she added that she was struck by the fact that the victims in the two hit-and-runs this year were both women, who comprise only about 25 percent of riders.
Jeff Carlson, a neighbor of Hanson’s, told other neighbors gathered Friday night that he was organizing a petition to bring to the City Council and Mayor R.T. Rybak to improve sight lines and make other safety improvements at the intersection where Hanson was killed.
Carlson said drivers as well as pedestrians on Pleasant and Pillsbury Avenue S., which is one block east, often have trouble seeing cross traffic on E. 28th Street, which is one-way eastbound, because parked cars on E. 28th Street block their view. That forces them to edge forward, nearly into traffic, before crossing the street or turning into the traffic.
Magalli Aguilar Ramirez, who has lived on the corner for 13 years, said that even without watching, the accidents she has seen there have been “too many to count.”
Neighbors dropped off flowers and candles at the stop sign Friday night, and some bicyclists donated a “ghost bike,” a bike painted white to commemorate a fatal bike accident.
“This space is going to be a reminder” both of Hanson and the need for safety improvements, Carlson said.