The exploding sound startled National Guard Staff Sgt. Jeremy Gettel. Then he saw the gaping hole in the car's windshield and his friend, who was driving along the Bloomington boulevard, was slumped and unconscious.
An iron vise that seemed to come out of nowhere, crash through the car's windshield and strike the driver is now causing anger and fear among those who drive the 14-block stretch of Normandale Boulevard between 84th and 98th streets. It's the sixth time since Jan. 18 that a vehicle has been struck by a flying object along the busy four-lane road. But Monday night was the first time someone was hurt.
"I think people are very concerned," said Bloomington Deputy Police Chief Rick Hart. "There's going to be outrage about this because there are people who are being victimized."
If not for Gettel, more people could have gotten hurt.
He had gone along with his friend, National Guard Sgt. Jon Stacke, on his 6-mile training march, complete with a 50-pound rucksack. The two Iraq War veterans had just left Normandale Lake and were headed south on Normandale Boulevard about 7:20 on their way to the Bloomington Armory.
"I heard an explosion," Gettel said. The vise that slammed through the windshield ricocheted off the steering wheel and hit Stacke's jaw. He was knocked out, "but his foot was still on the gas pedal," Gettel said.
Gettel grabbed the bent steering wheel, yanked the emergency brake and brought the car to a halt before it could veer into oncoming traffic on the undivided highway where cars travel at 45 miles per hour.
By the dashboard lights, Gettel could see Stacke had come to, but seemed dazed. Stacke put his hand across his bloodied face and Gettel called 911. The vise had broken Stacke's jaw, knocked out several teeth and shattered a bone.
"It's pretty bad," said Stacke's wife of 1 1/2 years, Shannon. But if the vise hadn't hit the steering wheel first, "it could have been worse, a lot worse," she said.
All items dangerous
Investigating the six incidents, Bloomington police aren't sure whether the items are being thrown from other vehicles or by one or more pedestrians. There are no overpasses along Normandale between 84th and 98th.
That stretch is mostly residential with a park and a few open areas, Hart said. "It's a little hilly there," he said. Police are not identifying the items that have been thrown because they don't want to compromise the investigation, he said.
"All of the items are dangerous," Hart said.
The culprits "could be kids. It could be an adult. We just don't know," he said. "We're hoping whoever is doing this, whether it's one, two or group of people, are talking, whether it be Facebook or Twitter, text messages, and are bragging about it and that someone is interested in some reward money."
A $1,500 reward fund has been established by the Bloomington Crime Prevention Association for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.
"We're talking about some serious felony charges," for whoever is responsible, Hart said.
Shannon Stacke sits by her 31-year-old husband, who remains hospitalized after two surgeries since Monday. "I'm angry. I'm sad. I'm hurt. All because of one thing that happened in 10 seconds. And now he's going to have weeks and weeks of recovery."
It also may jeopardize a long-held dream that her husband was just about to realize. Throughout her husband's 14-year military career, he has worked to be accepted to an elite military program for air assault training. After dedicated physical training and studying, he learned four weeks ago that he was accepted to training program, which begins April 16.
"It's devastating that it could all be jeopardized," she said.
Police are asking that anyone with information about these incidents call Sgt. Mark Elliott at 952-563-8628.
A fund to help the Stackes has been established. Contributions can be made at any TCF Bank to the Sgt. First Class Jonathan Stacke Benefit.