BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. (FOX 9) - A 46-year-old man is charged in connection to his neighbor's death over the weekend in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.
Christopher Dewayne Rice of Brooklyn Park is charged with two counts of second-degree murder and one count of criminal vehicular homicide after he fatally struck his neighbor Saturday evening.
According to the criminal complaint, on June 12, officers were dispatched to a hit-and-run accident on Scott Circle North. When they arrived, they found a man lying at the end of a driveway. He was receiving CPR from a bystander and appeared to be unconscious. He was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner has identified him as Paul Pfeifer, a resident on that street.
Witnesses said the victim was run over by a black SUV, which fled the scene before officers arrived. The victim's husband told officers that the victim was getting the mail at the time of the crash.
Officers found the suspect vehicle near the crash scene and learned it belonged to a female witness who lives in the area. The witness said she was at her home when she heard a commotion outside and learned that her car was missing. She said only she and her live-in boyfriend, Christopher Rice, have access to the car.
Rice was found inside the witness's home, and officers noted that his behavior was erratic. According to the complaint, Rice was mumbling to himself and was incoherent, telling officers he hears things and sees lights. He admitted to hitting the victim and told officers he is "controlled by a man and the man controlled him to hit the victim with his vehicle."
After he was arrested and brought to jail, Rice told officers he has schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. He said he is prescribed medications, but has not taken them for over a month. He said that while he was driving the car, he saw a man at a mailbox and heard voices in his head telling him to hit the man and that the man had done something bad to Rice's mother.
According to the complaint, Rice told officers he does not personally know the victim, but has seen him around the neighborhood. He said that after he struck the man, he continued driving for a couple blocks and got out of the car. He then walked home and laid in bed.
Rice has a documented history of mental health issues and was civilly committed in 2019.
During a press conference Wednesday, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said he added the second-degree murder charge because the conduct was so serious and criminal vehicular homicide charges typically carry a 48 month maximum sentence.
"Is it an aggressive charge? Yes, it is. But, we think we need to make a statement that this kind of conduct is simply not acceptable and we're going to use the power of this office to try to say that."
Freeman also spoke about Rice's time being committed.
"He spent some time in a hospital, was provisionally discharged, had some problems, was called back in and was again provisionally discharged. This is a very familiar pattern with people who suffer from different levels of mental illness. Many times people can be really fine and functioning well with certain medications. Lots of folks don't like the medications - bad side effects - so they take the medication for a while, they're feeling good, they quit taking them, and the bad behavior returns," he said.
"We're not picking on a guy with mental illness. He did the actions he was charged with, otherwise we would've have charged him, and we have a responsibility to charge that."
Mark Freund, a spokesperson for Pfeifer's family released the following statement in response to the charges:
"We're pleased to see that charges were filed. We hope that the proceedings will ensure that the accused will remain in custody so as not to be a threat to any other person."