A teenager has been charged in the death of two passengers while fleeing police in a high-speed crash of a SUV that had been carjacked at gunpoint in Minneapolis. The crash cut the vehicle in half.
Tiana L.A. Hughes, 17, of Minneapolis, was charged Thursday by juvenile petition in Hennepin County District Court with two counts of causing death while fleeing police, second-degree manslaughter and two counts of criminal vehicular homicide in connection with the crash on Dec. 9, 2021.
Officials have yet to disclose when Hughes will be in court, but prosecutors have indicated they intend to have her tried as an adult, which could mean a more severe sentence. Court records do not list an attorney for her.
Investigators had to test DNA in blood found on a steering wheel airbag and the driver's side window to determine who was the driver, the charges read. That evidence, along with DNA collected from four others in the SUV, allowed prosecutors to conclude Hughes was driving and charge her a year later.
Shawndale D. Hickman, 16, of Minneapolis, died at the scene, while a teenage girl died at the hospital. The Medical Examiner's Office identified her as Debra Ann Ward, 16, of Minneapolis. The charges say both were thrown from the rear of the vehicle.
About eight months earlier, Ward was in a stolen SUV that crashed in north Minneapolis. She and a cousin were arrested and jailed. Ward was charged with a series of felonies, triggering a legal case that ended upon her death.
According to the complaint and other law enforcement records:
Minneapolis police were alerted about 6 p.m. on Dec. 8, 2021, to the armed carjacking of a Mercedes SUV near 12th and Fremont avenues.
About 2:25 a.m. the next morning, a Robbinsdale police officer spotted the stolen SUV heading south on County Road 81 near 41st Avenue. A second Robbinsdale officer saw the SUV a few blocks later and turned on lights and siren to stop the driver at Theodore Wirth Parkway.
While fleeing, Hughes ran a red light, roared past other vehicles and at times crossed onto the oncoming traffic lane of Lowry Avenue at speeds above 80 mph.
The Robbinsdale officer lost sight of the SUV on Lowry after it crested a hill at NE. Johnson Street going about 110 mph.
The driver lost control soon after, the charges read. "The Mercedes struck a tree and then split in half."
Both officers involved in the pursuit could not immediately determine who was driving. One of them approached an injured Hughes and asked who was behind the wheel. She replied: "I got a concussion. I don't know."
The two juvenile males who survived the wreck denied driving and would not respond when asked who was behind the wheel.
In the immediate aftermath of this crash, the Racial Justice Network and similar community groups have called for a statewide ban on high-speed police chases.