Street racers shut down Minneapolis intersection, light fire to roadway

The street takeovers have crossed into dangerous and deadly territory.

Street racers light fire to the intersection of Cedar Avenue and E Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis. (Crime Watch Minneapolis)

Street takeovers have become a common occurrence in the Twin Cities over the last two years and it’s become more than just an annoyance.

In what has become a nationwide phenomenon, the street racers use their vehicles to shut down major intersections across the cities and perform burnouts and stunts, often causing property damage, loud disturbances and endangering bystanders. In some cases, the takeovers have converged on private property parking lots.

The caravans of vehicles, often referred to as “hotrodders” over police scanners, converge on city streets from downtown Minneapolis to Dinkytown, Uptown and other areas of south Minneapolis. Police dispatches about hotrodders can often be heard into suburban areas like Anoka County as well.

In February of this year, one group converged at the intersection of Cedar Avenue South and East Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis after 1 a.m. Police dispatch audio at the time reported that participants had started a fire in the middle of the road.

Crime Watch Minneapolis filed a data practices request with the City of Minneapolis to obtain the city’s street camera video of the incident that occurred on Feb. 12.

Two videos were obtained that appear to show gasoline being poured into a circle on the roadway in the middle of the intersection and being lit on fire.

Pedestrians can be seen jumping into the fire rings, followed by vehicles performing burnouts and donuts around the ring, sometimes with occupants hanging outside the window frames of the vehicles. Pedestrians run back and forth and in and out of the fire rings while vehicles are spinning around the fire and through the smoke, the videos show.

Meanwhile, other motorists were prevented from traveling through the intersection due to the takeover activity.

In the last two years, law enforcement agencies like the Minnesota State Patrol and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office have attempted crackdowns on street racers.

However, only a handful of citations were reported to have been issued in the publicized crackdowns, and the enforcement has appeared to have little effect on continued gatherings and street shutdowns.

In April of last year, a group of hotrodders shut down traffic in the Lowry Tunnel for about 20 minutes while they did burnouts and donuts inside the tunnel.

The street takeovers have crossed into dangerous and deadly territory as well.

Last June, two young bystanders were shot and killed at two different street-racer gatherings within an hour of each other in Minneapolis.

Vanessa Jensen, 20, was shot and killed before 2 a.m. on June 5 at North 2nd Street and 22nd Avenue North, and Nicholas Enger, 17, was shot and killed at East Lake Street and Hiawatha Avenue South within the same hour, according to police reports. Both locations have been regular gathering spots for street takeovers. To date, no suspects have been charged in either killing.

In July of last year, multiple videos surfaced showing about 30 shots being fired into the air by a person hanging out of a window of a vehicle doing donuts in the street at an Uptown intersection.

Minneapolis police have often been heard on dispatch audio over the last two years saying they don’t have the manpower or resources to converge upon or shut down many of the street-racing incidents where hundreds of people and vehicles are often present, sometimes in multiple areas in the city at the same time.

In a copy of a Facebook post by Ramsey County Deputy Patrick Scott late last year following complaints about hotrodders, he referred to the current understaffing situation being experienced by the Minneapolis Police Department. He said it would take “every officer in the city to effectively corral a single intersection takeover.” People have a lot of “unrealistic expectations of our beleaguered cops,” he said.

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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.