ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. (FOX 9) - A St. Louis Park stolen car story comes with a big twist and a mostly happy ending.
Someone stole a man’s van earlier this week and it’s not just any van. It’s heavily specialized because he’s partially paralyzed.
St. Louis Park police found the van and FOX9 was there when the news came in.
Alex Mitchell said it was traumatizing to think about everything he couldn’t do without his van, but as soon as our cameras started recording, things started looking up.
"Hello, this is Alex," Mitchell said as he answered a life-changing call. "You got my car? Oh my gosh."
For Alex, that news lifted a huge burden because his car is more than just a car.
It’s his independence.
A snowboarding injury left him paralyzed from the chest down at the age of 18. He’s made significant improvements over the last nine years and he adapted his van with hand controls and steering assistance, putting him back in life’s driver’s seat.
"I think the most daunting thing about a spinal cord injury is losing control," he said. "You can’t control your body like you used to. You can’t do the things you used to do. Sometimes you just can’t control what it’s done to you. And I think the biggest thing after I got hurt — independence and control wise — was just being able to drive again."
But when he tried to leave for work Tuesday, he found the van gone from his underground, locked garage.
"First of all, was shocked. We’re not in a bad area."
His independence was gone again, along with his sports wheelchairs, his crutches, and some other personal items.
Two days after he filed a police report, that call came just as we sat down for an interview.
"Wow," he said. "That’s amazing."
St. Louis Park police officers tracked the van down not even half a mile away from his home and arrested the man Alex suspected had taken it.
Alex was thrilled to see the van again, but the happy ending wasn’t perfect after he inspected it.
"The Smart Drive thing is not in there," Alex said. "And then he kind of tore up the column and then there’s tons of needles."
The Smart Drive is about a $7,000 device that turns a manual wheelchair into an electric chair, so that’s still a pretty big loss, but Alex can at least get around town again for work and play.
His roommate, Adam Crotteau, set up a GoFundMe page late Thursday to try to get him the money to replace it.