Prior convictions, few consequences for driver in deadly downtown Minneapolis crash

Just days before the deadly crash in Minneapolis, Hunter was charged in Stearns County with eight counts of fifth-degree assault.

Thomas Lenard Hunter/Hennepin County Jail

A driver with a revoked license who ran a red light that resulted in two pedestrians being thrown through a plate-glass window last week, killing one of them, has a history of convictions but has faced few consequences.

Thomas Lenard Hunter, 26, was jailed May 24 following the crash that occurred just before 6 p.m. near the corner of South 10th Street and Marquette Avenue in downtown Minneapolis, but he has since been released from custody without being charged.

And just days before the deadly crash in Minneapolis, Hunter was charged in Stearns County with eight counts of fifth-degree assault. However, he was released from custody on May 19 with no bail required, five days before the crash.

According to a statement released by the Minneapolis Police Department following the crash, Hunter was traveling north on Marquette Avenue and ran a red light at the intersection. Another vehicle traveling east on 10th Street crashed into Hunter’s vehicle and caused it to spin around and strike the two pedestrians, sending them through the plate-glass window of a business.

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Arriving officers and firefighters provided emergency aid to the victims who were subsequently transported to Hennepin County Medical Center. One victim was in critical condition and the other who was in grave condition died shortly after arriving at the hospital.

At the scene, Hunter showed signs of impairment, according to the MPD statement.

A police camera operator who viewed the crash told a responding officer that the driver should be detained because the driver’s actions looked “intentional,” according to police dispatch audio.

On Wednesday, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner identified Stephan Rice, 62, of Burnsville as the person who died in the crash. The second victim who was critically injured has not been identified.

Hunter was released from custody late Wednesday afternoon without charges being filed. Minneapolis police say they are continuing to investigate.

Prior convictions, few consequences

Hunter has had four felony convictions since 2015, including felon in possession of a firearm, assault on a peace officer, fleeing police and domestic assault. The felony sentences in each case were stayed — meaning they were either not imposed or executed.

Most recently, Hunter was convicted in Beltrami County in February of this year following a jury trial on felony charges of fleeing police and assault on a peace officer, as well as a gross misdemeanor charge of third-degree DWI. Hunter was sentenced to 13, 15 and 12 months in prison, respectively, on the convictions. However, the sentences were stayed by Judge Annie Claesson-Huseby. Hunter was alternatively sentenced to 13 days in jail, given credit for nine days already served, and placed on probation for a term of five years.

In April 2019 Hunter was convicted in Dakota County on a felony charge of domestic assault. In that case, he received a stay-of-imposition on the felony sentence by Judge Karen Asphaug. Hunter was instead given credit for 57 days already spent in jail and was placed on probation.

Hunter was convicted in 2015 in Hennepin County on a felony count of being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm and was sentenced to three years in prison. However, the prison sentence was stayed by Judge Joseph R. Klein. Hunter was instead sentenced to 180 days in the workhouse and was given credit for 94 days already served. Minnesota only requires offenders to serve two-thirds of their sentences incarcerated, so Hunter was placed on probation after serving the remaining 26 days in the workhouse.

Hunter is currently on probation for the February conviction in Beltrami County. However, a felony probation violation warrant was not issued for his arrest until two days after he was released from custody at Hennepin County Jail last week.

Hunter is currently not in custody and his whereabouts are unknown.

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Minnesota Crime Watch & Information publishes news, info and commentary about crime, public safety and livability issues in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota.