At least there was no chance of getting a speeding ticket.
A 15-year-old boy fired up a front-end loader under cover of darkness in St. Paul and lumbered along city streets on a joy ride spanning at least 22 miles and nearly four hours through the University of Minnesota, downtown Minneapolis and along Lake Street before crashing into a Hopkins auto dealership building.
“We suspect that his intent was to steal a car by getting in the business for the keys,” said Hopkins Police Sgt. Michael Glassberg of the teen’s crash landing before his arrest. “It’s not every day that you see someone use a front-end loader to go through the front of the business.”
A GPS device in the construction equipment gave police an accurate depiction of the less-than-direct route the boy took once he climbed aboard about 1 a.m. Monday and departed from a recycling business along a sliver of E. Minnehaha Avenue just northwest of the Interstate 35E exit to Pennsylvania Avenue.
Maximum speed for the 9-ton John Deere 544 is 10.7 miles per hour.
Once he started the yellow vehicle — no key required — the boy and his oversized toy rolled west and onto the U campus, then into downtown Minneapolis and along southbound Nicollet Avenue before heading west past Lake Calhoun and into Hopkins.
He crashed into the left side of the modest offices of Metro Motorcars on Excelsior Boulevard, across the street from the Blake School. The impact set off a burglar alarm about 4:50 a.m. and alerted police, who arrived and discovered “significant damage to the front of the building,” Glassberg said.
The teen ran to the back of the building and was quickly apprehended. The boy came out of it with minor injuries, the sergeant said, adding there was no indication that he was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. Charges in juvenile court are pending against the boy. Police did not reveal his identity.
Dealership owner John Eaton said a woman came by later Monday morning on her way to pick up the boy from police and apologized on the teen’s behalf.
“She said he lives in a youth home” in St. Paul, Eaton said. “She took some pictures because she’d figured he’d brag about it.”
Eaton said about a third of his building “was taken out by the youth … and one car was damaged that he backed into.”
“He was sick and tired of driving a front-end loader and wanted to drive a car home,” said Eaton, whose dealership was quickly back in business despite the mayhem.
The bucket to the equipment turned up outside the Hyatt Regency on Nicollet Avenue in downtown Minneapolis, where staff “saw [the front-end loader] show up yesterday but didn’t think anything of it,” Glassberg said.
“The fact that no one picked up on this [as he rolled along] is pretty interesting,” the sergeant said. “But there are times at night, you’ll see maintenance around and you don’t think anything of it.”