MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Three people were killed when a stolen vehicle, being chased by the Minnesota State Patrol, hit their vehicle.
The accident happened just after midnight Sunday. Police say 29-year-old Rufus Onel Victor was being pursued after he was seen driving erratically exiting on Dowling Avenue from Interstate 94 in Minneapolis.
Lt. Eric Roeske said Victor hit two vehicles, one unoccupied and the other with a woman and her two children inside.
Twenty-nine-year-old Amanda Jean Thomas, of Fridley, her 12-year-old son, André, and 3-month-old boy Akeron were all killed in the crash. Thomas and the 12-year-old died at the scene and the baby was taken to the hospital, where he later died.
NewsRadio 830 WCCO’s Bruce Hagevik Reports
“She loved both her kids. She was a great mom, great person and she was just beginning her life with her family,” said Mary Svoboda, a friend of Thomas.
By Sunday afternoon, friends put up a memorial of balloons, candles and stuffed animals at the crash site.
Less than 24 hours ago it was the scene of an accident that destroyed an entire family.
“This car came out from nowhere. He was doing about 80-90 miles an hour and slammed into the side of her car,” said witness Cynthia Haynes.
Haynes was in the left lane. Thomas’ car was right next to her and both were heading east on Broadway when Thomas’ car was hit.
“It turned around in a few circles and came up on the curb and I seen the young, apparently it was her oldest son, I seen him fly out of the car, “Haynes said.
Haynes got out to help but there was nothing she could do. She did lead police to the man they were trying to stop.
“The guy who caused this accident, he took off running, staggering. I told them where he went. He went into the scrap yard over there,” said Haynes.
The State Patrol said the vehicle being pursued had been reported stolen and the chase had been going on for about a minute when the crash occurred.
Police say the vehicle Victor was driving was far ahead of the state trooper when it hit Thomas and her children.
Victor eventually fled on foot, but was caught after a brief search.
“I’m mad at the person that hit and killed her, because there’s no reason for it, whatsoever,” Svoboda said. “He needs to know he took her life and cut her life so short, and left everyone else sad and upset about this.”
“I just talked to her hours ago, I just talked to her last night,” said friend Tanaya Adams.
Adams could not believe the news. She had to come to the scene of the accident to see for herself.
Thomas’ cousin Patty Sherburne said Andre was a gentle soul.
“He was sweet, very sweet but quiet,” said Sherburne, who had not yet met AJ. They were to meet Christmas Eve at Sherburne’s home where the family always gathered.
Roeske said a blood sample was taken from Victor on the scene, but the results are still being processed. However, it is believed he was driving impaired.
Victor had minor injuries and was taken to Hennepin County Jail, where he is currently in custody. He has a number of prior offenses in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, including assault, theft and burglary.
WCCO-TV’s Reg Chapman Reports