Two teenage siblings out for an afternoon ice cream cone at a neighborhood bakery on an unusually warm fall afternoon were critically injured when a carjacked vehicle jumped a curb and struck them in south Minneapolis.
Cecilia Speranzella, 19, of Minneapolis, remained in HCMC in critical condition, and her brother Jacob was in serious condition Tuesday.
Police say the suspected driver, Steven D. Ross, is a violent repeat offender who was on probation and under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash Monday afternoon.
The driver went on a lengthy rampage, with the stolen car first slamming into the Panaderia San Miguel bakery at E. Lake Street and S. 17th Avenue, where the teens were struck, before continuing down 17th Avenue. It struck another car and rammed a police squad before crashing into a streetlight and bursting into flames.
Ross, 48, was arrested at the scene of the fiery wreck and transported to HCMC for treatment of minor injuries, police said.
Police were holding Ross on suspicion of robbery, criminal vehicular operation and driving while impaired. He has yet to be charged.
A person inside the bakery was also injured. Another person was hurt but declined medical help.
An afternoon treat
The teenagers’ father, Joseph Speranzella, wrote hours after the crash in a social media posting that his daughter “has a traumatic brain injury and is not responding.”
He wrote that Jake was recovering from fractures to his ankle and two vertebrae and “has lots of cuts and stitches, as he went through the bakery window and ended up … inside the bakery.”
Joseph Speranzella added that his children “wanted to treat themselves with ice cream from the [bakery]. So they took a walk and were at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Police Chief Medaria Arradondo called the consequences of the carjacking “very unfortunate [and] very horrific” but also said, “It could have been a lot more serious.”
Lengthy criminal history
Ross has an extensive criminal history in Minnesota that includes convictions in February in Hennepin County for illicit drug possession and disorderly conduct involving a hammer-wielding outburst on a Metro Transit bus. He is on probation until 2022.
The two cases were “joined” into one by Judge Marta Chou, who stayed a 19-month prison sentence.
“We agreed to that” sentence, said Chuck Laszewski, spokesman for the County Attorney’s Office, who pointed out that Ross was ordered by the court to receive drug treatment.
Ross also was convicted of felony assault in 2014 for beating another man bloody in St. Paul after the two left a bar. A prison term of five years was stayed in that case, and he served three days in the workhouse and was put on probation for five years until March 2020.
However, he was discharged in August 2019 from probation by Judge Jennifer Frisch, acting on a recommendation from county probation officers.
Otherwise, dating back to 2004, Ross has three convictions for disorderly conduct, two others for assault, and one each for burglary, attempted theft and property damage.
Ross also was driving at the time of the crash after his license was revoked, according to the state Department of Public Safety, an offense he has committed before.
Bakery open the next day
Panaderia San Miguel is one of several Latino businesses that line the southern edge of the stretch of Lake Street.
Its Spanish name is painted in wide block letters on both sides of the building. Above the door is a painting of the archangel St. Michael floating on yellow clouds, holding scales in his left hand and hoisting a pink cake on his right hand.
Despite the horrific scene the day before, the bakery was open for business Tuesday afternoon. The four windows that were shattered in the crash were boarded up, but the entry door was left intact.
The incident started a few blocks away at S. 17th Avenue and E. 26th Street about 2:15 p.m. An off-duty officer in a marked squad saw two people acting animated and went over to see whether there was a problem.
It was later learned that a car was hit by the carjacker a few minutes earlier.
Farther down 17th, the officer saw the car had crashed into the bakery. The driver then spun around and rammed into the front end of the squad, police spokesman John Elder said.
Still behind the wheel, the driver continued to flee police, jumped the curb and hit a streetlight, sending the vehicle bursting into flames, Elder said. Elder said the officer whose squad was rammed was not injured. The squad had minor damage.