What began as a police response late Thursday morning to a reported domestic assault ended with a driver fleeing an officer south of the Twin Cities and crashing at an Interstate 35 exit in Owatonna, killing the motorist and his passenger, authorities said.

The wreck occurred midday at the top of the exit ramp from southbound I-35 to Bridge Street, police said. The car crashed head-on into a pole holding a stoplight.

The State Patrol identified the dead as driver Louis D. Bennett, 42, of Owatonna, and passenger Sauda Abubakar Maani, 24, of Rochester.

According to police:

Someone called police about 11:40 a.m. about a man hitting a woman on NW. 21st Street in Owatonna. A car with two occupants left the area before police arrived.

Soon after, an officer spotted the suspect’s vehicle a few blocks away near the interstate.

When the officer tried to pull the car over, the driver jumped on I-35 and sped south.

The suspect got off the interstate two exits later and crashed.

The State Patrol is investigating the circumstances of the crash and will try to determine, among other things, how long the police pursuit lasted.