Vehicle crashes into Red Wing restaurant, suspect in custody

A vehicle crashed into a Red Wing restaurant Wednesday night, causing a portion of the building to collapse.

According to the Red Wing Police Department, at about 9:43 p.m., officers responded to a call about removing an "unwanted person" on 21st Street. A responding officer saw a vehicle speeding northbound on Bush Street, passing 10th Street.

Officers made a U-turn and pursued the suspect as they drove through a stop sign at the intersection of 7th and Plum, and another at 4th and Plum. According to police, the SUV then turned onto 3rd St.

Officers spotted "a large dust cloud" as they approached and saw the suspect crawling out of the vehicle’s window at the intersection, according to the press release.

A person was treated on the scene and then transported by police to Mayo Clinic Health Systems-Red Wing. The driver of the suspect vehicle was then taken to the Goodhue County Adult Detention Center. He has been identified as 28-year-old Donovan Plank.

Red Cross is currently assisting with the displaced building tenants.

According to the city of Red Wing, the building has been condemned and utilities have been shut off.

Owner Doug Noreen assessed the damage with a team of structural engineers on Thursday afternoon.

“In a matter of moments, one-car crash and a building that’s been standing for 130 years is half gone,” he said.

Noreen rushed to the scene on Wednesday night, after his fiancé heard about what happened on social media.

“My jaw was just open,” he said. “I was expecting to have to replace a bunch of windows, some other frontal stuff like that. It ended up being the third floor is devastated as well.”

All four of the tenants who were home in the second and third-floor apartments evacuated safely.

“That guy who lives in the second floor, Rick, he was in the front living room there when it happened,” said Noreen. “He thought a bomb went off apparently he hit the floor.”

Noreen told us none of the six employees working at the time were injured either.

The crumbling building collapsed around his family restaurant. It was opened by his parents in 1975, moving to the corner of Plum and 3rd Streets in the ’80s. It’s been a fixture of the historic downtown ever since.

“Mom and Dad came down last night too and Mom broke down,” said Noreen. “You look at a business you’ve put your blood sweat and tears, life, everything into and to see it being questioned whether it’s going to be open tomorrow really hurts."

Dave and Sue Gerardy camp nearby and come into town to eat breakfast at Liberty’s once a week.

“My stomach is just in knots,” said Sue Gerardy. “It’s a sad day in Red Wing today, a very sad day.”

She said they were just sitting at a window table on Wednesday morning.

“It looks like a bomb went off,” said Dave Gerardy.

They’re worried about Noreen and the wait staff, knowing the pandemic has taken a toll on the restaurant industry.

“Now it’s like who knows what’s going to happen?” said Dave Gerardy. “Hopefully the building can be saved ."

Carlson’s Sports Center is in the building next door. The apparel company told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that Liberty’s draws a large lunch crowd every day.

“It’s such an establishment in the community,” said Nicole Schammel, whose family owns Carlson’s. “We just really feel for the owners of Liberty’s and just their path to getting back on track after something this horrible happens to your building. It will be a rebuilding process but hopefully they can return strong from this.”

Noreen vows to reopen the restaurant.

“We’ll get her up and going,” he said, thankful for the community’s support. “Hearing the people’s comments and stuff like that of how much Liberty’s means and offering to help and what can we do to help, it’s real overwhelming.”

Downtown Main Street has set up a fundraising page to help. Noreen said he is most concerned about his tenants, who are also being supported by the Red Cross.

The incident remains under investigation.