Police officers shot a man as he drove a car at them in a Twin Cities airport parking ramp in a frantic close-quarters game of cat-and-mouse that left the suspect wounded and one officer injured, authorities and a witness said Sunday.
Officers for the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport clashed with the driver about 9:30 p.m. Saturday on an upper level of the Terminal 1 ramp in the Hertz area. Police said they recently have received numerous reports of rental car thefts.
The driver, a 36-year-old Twin Cities man, was hospitalized, authorities said during a media briefing Sunday afternoon. The suspect and the officer were both expected to survive their injuries.
The driver’s identity was released, but he has yet to be charged. He’s accused of aggravated assault.
The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office said police were called to the ramp and were dealing with people in one car, when the suspect in another car drove at the officers. Officers then fired upon the approaching vehicle. No one else was arrested.
Sheriff Rich Stanek said, “At this time, we do not believe this case had any ties to any Homeland Security concern.”
Authorities at the news briefing did not explain how the officer’s injuries were inflicted. The sheriff and others who accompanied him declined to answer reporters’ questions.
Todd Buchanan was in his vehicle near the rental car area’s exit when he witnessed the entire encounter.
“Police had a [green] car pulled over,” Buchanan told the Star Tribune. “In front of me was the yellow car … an officer came over to him, signaling him to wait.”
As the officer was about to walk away, Buchanan continued, the driver “floored it [trying to exit], but the garage is blocked by police.”
Wheels squealing and its back end fishtailing, the yellow car hit plastic barricades, he said. Eventually, the suspect “threw the car into reverse, full-press throttle.”
At that moment, a police officer on a bicycle was “rolling into the scene,” Buchanan said. “He jumps off the bicycle. I couldn’t see if he was struck, but he’s frantically trying to get away from this car, which is sort of fishtailing backwards.”
The car then smashed into a concrete pillar near the Hertz exit and stopped, Buchanan added. The driver hit the gas again, trying to make it to a ramp. Officers fired and wounded the driver. Buchanan said he recalls hearing eight shots fired by two or three officers.
Even though he was bleeding, the suspect was “attempting to go up the ramp, but he doesn’t make it,” Buchanan said. “He noses into the wall. … He’s been shot by this point and clearly loses control of the vehicle.” The pursuit was over.
Officers pulled the man out of the car and began treating him for his wounds. An ambulance was on the scene within about five minutes.
The two people in the green car were handcuffed and taken into custody, but ultimately they were not arrested.
A man at the airport for a flight said he saw the yellow car after daybreak Sunday being covered with a tarp and carted away on a flatbed truck.
Jeremy Dando, of Plymouth, said he had heard earlier about the shooting and started snapping photos. “As I happened to look at the pictures, I saw there were six to eight bullet holes in the car.”
The shooting scene remained off limits to the public until shortly before 9 a.m. Sunday as the Sheriff’s Office worked there investigating the incident, said airport spokesman Patrick Hogan. During that time, Hogan added, rental car customers were being asked to return vehicles to the Terminal 2 facility.
Hogan said he believes this is the first time airport police have been involved in a shooting since a gun battle with a man 20 years ago.