Stolen Kia crashes continue to endanger lives on Minneapolis streets

While the number of stolen vehicles continues to decline across the region, one issue still haunting law enforcement is young people targeting Kias and Hyundais.

Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara told FOX 9, the so-called "Kia boys" remain a top public safety threat in the city. On Sunday night, one of his officers was injured when young people in a stolen Kia crashed into a police squad car.

For Shauna Valdez, she recalls having little time to react during her recent run-in with the Kia boys.

"It all happened so fast," Valdez said. "As they say, in the blink of an eye, anything could happen. And that was it."

Valdez, a mental health counselor, was driving her client southbound on one-way Portland Avenue in south Minneapolis last week when she caught a glimpse of a Kia coming towards her, from her left, along 31st Street. The driver did not stop at the red light, plowing into Valdez’s vehicle practically head-on.

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Shauna Valdez's Honda and the stolen Kia that hit her.

From: Supplied

"It was a shock. I thought it was actually smoke. That is what it looked like to me. But it was just shocking," Valdez told FOX 9’s Paul Blume during an interview back at the crash scene. Her car was totaled. "I thought he was going to see me and slow down, but he didn't at all. So, I almost think maybe he meant to hit me. Like, maybe they think that is fun, I don't know."

Valdez and her passenger are just the latest victims of a crime trend that has wreaked havoc on the streets of the state’s largest city for several years now -- young car thieves turning easily stolen Kias and Hyundais into what seems like their own video game adventures.

"It is crazy," said Chief O’Hara. "I am sure people see it on the street. They see it in videos posted online."

Chief O’Hara described countless incidents of reckless, high-speed driving, quick-hitting robbery sprees involving packs of youth in stolen vehicles, and on occasion, deadly rolling shootouts.

MPD Chief Brian O'Hara spoke with FOX 9 on Tuesday. (FOX 9)

"This problem is frustrating because it feels like it is something we should be able to prevent at this point," added O’Hara.

On Sunday night, MPD reported a group of young suspects in a stolen red Kia Sol was involved in a multi-vehicle crash that included a Minneapolis squad car. The officer inside was injured and sent to the hospital.

Among the suspects rounded up in the aftermath was an 11-year-old boy as well as 22-year-old Jahkel Oneal. Oneal was charged with a gross misdemeanor weapons violation and a single misdemeanor count of obstructing the legal process on Tuesday. 

Said O’Hara, "So many kids out here stealing them and joyriding them and really driving crazy. It is really, a significant public safety risk to our community. It is a risk to these own kids’ health and well-being."

The squad crash involving a stolen Kia (Supplied)

Despite the hassle of a totaled vehicle, Valdez said she knows all too well her run-in with the Kia boys could have ended a whole lot worse.

"I just thought to myself, ‘I actually could have died.’ Like, I am lucky to be alive, you know?" said Valdez. "So, this is not victimless by any means. They could kill people. They could kill themselves. These young folks have a whole life ahead of them."

Fortunately for Valdez, outside of some bumps and bruises, she is doing fine. Insurance provided a new vehicle. The Kia boys who hit her in their stolen vehicle were captured in a blurry cell phone photograph, running from the crash scene, and have not been either identified or apprehended as far as she knows.

Valdez personally blames the Kia and Hyundai automakers for not doing more to prevent the thefts of their cars and SUVs, and like the Minneapolis police chief, hopes the community can somehow figure out the issue.

"I think it is sad, you know, and I do my best to hold some empathy," concluded Valdez. "These young folks must not have good home lives to be out doing stuff like this. And so, I wish society could do something to help them have some sense of hope and make some changes."