The man who rammed into the back of Irvine Doyle’s truck repeatedly stabbed at his driver’s-side window with a 6-inch blade knife, all the time yelling and ranting.
That’s when Doyle saw another man approach with a gun, pointing it down toward the ground, telling the man with the knife to calm down.
“I said, ‘Thank God somebody’s here because the cops aren’t here yet,” Doyle recalled.
In an interview Friday, Doyle filled out the picture of the chaotic scene on Hwy. 65 near Medtronic Parkway on Wednesday after Simon Schiffler, 33, of Williston, N.D., set off a chain-reaction crash at a red light.
Schiffler, the man with the knife, was beyond erratic, Doyle said.
“I know he had alcohol on his breath. But he wasn’t in his right mind,” said Doyle, 57, of Ham Lake. “I don’t think three or four people would have been able to hold him down. He was crazed.”
The man with gun told Schiffler to relax, Doyle said. Instead, Schiffler charged, “his knife flailing,” Doyle said.
Three shots rang out and Schiffler dropped to the ground, bleeding, Doyle said. Schiffler was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center, where he died.
A family is likely grieving over his death, Doyle said. But he and others feared for their lives.
As some people on the scene tended to Schiffler, Doyle saw the man with the gun drop to a knee, unload his handgun and holster it. “He was sitting there with his head down. He was obviously in shock,” Doyle said.
“I told him he saved my life and probably a couple other lives,” he said. “I actually gave him a hug.”
The gunman remained at the scene and was interviewed by investigators. He has not been identified or arrested.
“The whole thing sucks,” Doyle said.
Doyle is stunned that a drive home from work on Wednesday could suddenly erupt into deadly chaos.
Doyle was sitting behind two other vehicles at a red light when he looked in his rearview mirror in time to see a speeding pickup truck plow into his vehicle. The force pushed his body forward and then back, snapping off the back of his seat.
Doyle, his back sore from the impact, struggled to get out of his truck. Schiffler approached, yelling: “ ‘I fell asleep,’ ” Doyle said.
Schiffler grabbed the phone from Doyle’s hand and talked incoherently into it, Doyle said. Eventually Schiffler went back to his truck, “burning up his tires trying to get away,” Doyle said. “We were all connected and no one was going to get out.”
Schiffler returned to Doyle’s car, shoving him into his truck and demanding that he do something to get the cars free.
Lisa Panning, 38, of Ham Lake, another driver involved in the pile up, got out of her car to write down license plate numbers and exchange insurance information when Schiffler pinned her against a vehicle stopped in the other lane. “He had me in a bear hug,” she said. “He was yelling and screaming and trying to kiss me. I could smell alcohol.”
“I was afraid,” Panning said.
Schiffler returned to Doyle’s car, pulling a knife and stabbing at the window.
Panning was on her phone with a 911 operator when she heard the shots, looking up to see Schiffler on the ground.
A day after the incident, Panning said she’s still shaken, the images from the scene still vivid in her mind. “I’m very emotional,” she said.
Alcohol was detected in Schiffler’s system at the time of the crash, a crash report said. The Hennepin County medical examiner on Thursday ruled his death a homicide caused by multiple gunshot wounds, although it is not clear whether any charges will be filed.
After the crash, Doyle was taken to Unity Hospital with noncritical injuries, the State Patrol’s report said. The other driver was not seriously hurt.
Authorities continue to talk with witnesses and asked anybody who may have information to contact the Anoka County Sheriff’s Department at 763-427-1212.