Tragedy and loss followed a police chase on Monday morning that ended with three young men ages 14 through 15 dead on Minneapolis’ North Side. The incident calls into question yet again the wisdom of police chases that can on occasion lead to tragedy.
It also brought into focus the problem of youth with too much time on their hands, which the COVID pandemic has aggravated by forcing the shutdown of gyms and other facilities that usually serve as youth diversions.
Three people in a vehicle that was taken during a carjacking died when the driver crashed during a police chase in Minneapolis, according to police. The crash scene was filled with young people who have become all too familiar with death and loss, and older people with lots of opinions about why this may have happened. All were at an obvious loss to explain the senseless loss of life.
According to Minneapolis police, at 1:44 am October 5 officers spotted a car near Dowling and Logan avenues that had been taken during a “carjacking with force” the morning before. When police tried to pull the vehicle over, the driver fled “at a high rate of speed,” police said.
During the ensuing chase, the suspect vehicle “got substantially ahead” of police. They saw the vehicle lose control and roll near Emerson Avenue and 18th Avenue North. According to reports, the car struck a street light and went airborne, taking out part of a porch nearby before landing. The street light was found 30 yards away.
“Only thing I want to know is why to do they chase these cars,” asked the distraught father of one of the deceased teens. It’s a question that gets asked every time someone is hurt as a result of a police pursuit.
Minneapolis police supposedly have adjusted their policy so that they no longer chase anyone who is simply trying to evade a ticket. But the new policy allows them to chase just about everyone else, including those suspected of car theft.
“The first thing that popped in my head was that he got shot,” said Thomas Wright, father of 15-year-old Jamontae Welch, who insisted his son did not steal the car. “These kids around here are doing what they want to do.” He said one of the other deceased teenagers, Demetrius Dobbins, was his nephew, and that his son and nephew hung out with one another quite a bit.
“It’s sad that everything I had as a kid to keep me occupied as a kid, they took all that away. So what is there for these kids to do?” asked the anguished father in an interview with King Demetrius Pendelton, a community journalist and videographer. “Other people who are higher than me could help get these kids gyms or something, because this doesn’t make no sense.”
The dad, who came across as sincere and concerned, said he talks “every day” to the young people, friends of his son, some of whom had gathered at the accident site. He pointed out that the kids were still grieving over the loss of another member of the group of friends who was recently killed at a nearby store.
This familiar cycle of violence has heightened, some say, as a result of the effects of the lockdown and economic fallout of the COVID-19. Monday’s tragedy began when the three youth carjacked an elderly woman. No doubt the owner wanted her car back, but she may not have wanted it returned at any cost.
“It’s tragic from the beginning of the story to the end of it,” said Fifth Ward City Councilmember Jeremiah Ellison. “There is a lot of strain on the community right now. It’s just tragic.” Ellison was on the scene afterward helping make sure Fire Department personnel covered up leftover pools of blood and recovered any leftover body parts.