Charges: Driver reached 80 MPH, blew 22 stop signs before hitting kids at Minneapolis playground

The driver who struck three children on a playground with his SUV after a police chase through north Minneapolis is now charged in the crash.   

Kabaar Powell, 27, is facing two felony charges for fleeing police and three misdemeanors, two for criminal vehicular operation with bodily harm and one for possession of a pistol without a permit in a public place. 

According to the criminal complaint, state troopers were patrolling Interstate 94 at about 9:40 a.m. Monday when they saw a speeding vehicle. They knew the driver, Powell, was driving with a revoked license. 

The troopers attempted to pull Powell over, but he sped away and exited the freeway at 53rd Street North. Powell led troopers on a chase through residential streets in north Minneapolis, driving at speeds of up to 80 miles per hour and failing to stop for at least 22 stop signs. 

Eventually, Powell turned into Bohanon Park near 50th and Dupont Avenue. He drove onto the grass near the adjacent Jenny Lind Elementary school and then onto the tennis and basketball courts. 

A 30-year-old man was at the playing on the basketball court with his four children. Powell struck two of the children, a two-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl, with his SUV, completely running the boy and partially running over the girl. 

"Just out in the park and just the idea of some guy coming and mowing down your kids is something that’s just hard to comprehend," said Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman in a press conference.

Both children were taken to North Memorial with life-threatening injuries. The two-year-old boy had to have his spleen removed and suffered a pelvic fracture, cervical spine fracture and intracranial bleeding, the charges say. His sister, the four-year-old girl, suffered bleeding in the brain and cuts and bruises on her upper body. The third child that was struck suffered non-life threatening injuries, according to the State Patrol. 

At the press conference, Freeman criticized State Patrol for continuing the pursuit, especially at such high speeds.

“I think these policies should discourage this kind of conduct except in the most extreme cases in residential neighborhoods,” said Freeman. “People’s lives like these kids’ lives are a lot more important than catching this guy in my view.”

Powell was apparently involved in another pursuit on Friday, but troopers lost track of him and it was cut short, which is exactly what Freeman thinks should have happened this time.

If their policy permits this kind of chase, I think it really ought to be reviewed,” said Freeman. “Ya know if he got away once and he didn’t cause great problems after that, I’d rather see someone get away many times than cause this kind of injury and residential streets are just not made for people driving 80 miles per hour.”

After Powell smashed into the playground equipment, he fled from the vehicle on foot, but was quickly apprehended by troopers. Two of the troopers suffered minor head injuries in the pursuit. In a search of the vehicle, troopers found a handgun and ammunition. Powell does not have a permit to carry a firearm. 

Powell is expected to make his first court appearance on Thursday.