Charges: Driver accused in Crystal hit and run claimed vehicle was stolen

The man police say was responsible for a hit-and-run crash this month in Crystal, Minnesota, which left another man fighting for his life, tried to avoid charges by claiming his vehicle had been stolen.

In a criminal complaint filed on Thursday, Phonsavanh Vongphouthone was charged with criminal vehicular operation for the crash on December 18. On that day, around 6:40 p.m., police were called out to County Road 81 near the Crystal Airport for a man found lying in the road with serious injuries.

Reviewing surveillance videos, investigators were able to determine the man had bought beer at a nearby liquor store at about 6:15 p.m. before getting hit by a car while crossing the street.

At the hospital, the victim underwent multiple surgeries, including a leg amputation, to save his life. He remains hospitalized.

The following morning, as the investigation into the crash was ongoing, police said Vongphouthone called 911 to report his vehicle, a white Ford Focus, had been stolen. The vehicle was found less than a mile away from Vongphouthone's home in Brooklyn Park. The vehicle looked "as if it had struck a person," investigators said in the complaint, but the ignition nor the steeling wheel showed any signs of tampering.

Officers say, once recovered, they determined pieces missing from Vongphouthone's Focus matched the pieces found in the roadway at the County Road 81 crash scene.

Vongphouthone was taken in for questioning. During interrogation, Vongphouthone initially told police the same story: He had been home around the time of the crash but hadn't realized the vehicle was missing until the following morning.

Vongphouthone also told officers he did not drive the vehicle because his license had been cancelled. Instead, it was registered to the mother of his children.

However, investigators say video evidence and statements from Vongphouthone's family contradicted his story. Police say, instead, they were able to determine he had driven to the liquor store to buy a 12-pack of beer and had driven away in the Ford Focus, towards the direction where the victim had been struck.

In a later statement to police, according to the charges, Vongphouthone eventually admitted to striking the victim, claiming then that the victim had "jumped" in front of his car. He claimed he hadn't been drinking, but admitted to taking "one hit" of weed before the crash.

In the complaint, police say Vongphouthone told them he hadn't reported the accident because he was "scared." Once home, he told police he "drank it off" then moved his vehicle around 11 p.m. as part of a plan to report it stolen.

Vongphouthone is being held in Hennepin County Jail on $75,000 bail.