Warrant: Suspect had rented car less than 30 minutes before deadly crash
A search warrant filed the night of the crash that killed five young women Friday in south Minneapolis reveals the alleged driver had rented a car less than half an hour before the collision.
The Minnesota state trooper who applied for the warrant said his radar clocked a Cadillac Escalade driving 95 mph on Interstate 35W at 10:09 p.m. While following at a distance, the trooper witnessed the Cadillac veer from the far left lane to the right side of the highway to exit at 31st Street, the warrant states.
The Cadillac drove through the intersection at 31st Street at a high rate of speed and continued up Second Avenue onto Lake Street, running through a red light and smashing into the driver’s side of a Honda Civic. All five victims inside the Honda were pronounced dead at the scene.
According to the warrant, the suspected driver of the Cadillac, identified as 27-year-old Derrick John Thompson, ran from the crash scene and was found at the Taco Bell a block away. He was sweaty and out of breath and had suffered a broken hip and a laceration on his head.
A rental agreement on the floor of the Cadillac showed Thompson had rented the vehicle from Hertz at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport at 9:46 p.m., just 23 minutes before the state trooper saw him zooming past on I-35W. A bag containing suspected marijuana was also found inside.
Thompson was brought to the hospital for his injuries, and a judge approved a search warrant to draw a blood sample to test for substance impairment. He was transferred to the Hennepin County Jail on Monday on suspicion of murder.
Prosecutors have yet to file formal charges in the case, but a spokesperson for the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office said a charging decision is expected by noon Wednesday.
A history of driving-related offenses
Thompson’s Minnesota driver’s license had been revoked in 2018 and was not reinstated until June 7 of this year, less than two weeks before the crash. He was issued a valid driver’s license despite an extensive criminal driving record in both Minnesota and California.
In California, he served less than four years of an eight-year prison sentence after his conviction for a hit-and-run crash where he severely injured a woman.
In Minnesota, his record ranges from selling and possessing a controlled substance while driving a motor vehicle in 2016 to fleeing a peace officer in 2017 to driving after revocation in 2018.
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS sought comment from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety about the criteria for getting a license reinstated and how Thompson got his license. Late Tuesday, a DPS spokesman said they’re still working on gathering that information.
A spokesperson with Minnesota Driver and Vehicle Services explained that the agency checks a database to make sure driver’s license applicants do not have suspended or revoked driving privileges elsewhere in the country.
“If someone in Minnesota has a certain violation, they must meet the license withdrawal timeline and reinstatement requirements outlined by state statutes depending on the violation, before getting their Minnesota driver’s license privileges back,” the DVS spokesperson wrote in an email.
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reached out to several state lawmakers about whether the Legislature should address the issue of driver’s license reinstatements. All declined to comment.
Meanwhile, a Twin Cities woman took to Twitter to highlight the issue of how easily people convicted of serious offenses get their licenses back.
“The thread was fueled just by my anger,” Colleen Kelly says of her Twitter posts on Tuesday. Her daughter Anya was struck by a reckless driver while crossing the street in Uptown area of Minneapolis in 2021. The suspect in the case was driving with a suspended license at the time, but she says by the time he was convicted his license had been reinstated.
Kelly tweeted that “getting a license back after this type of crime is completely normal.”
In an interview with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, Kelly voiced more frustration.
“Suspending a license is meaningless,” she said. “It truly is meaningless.”
She cited case after case on Twitter of horrific crashes before and after license suspensions and revocations.
“The trail of destruction that follows a crash like that I can’t even begin to describe,” she wrote.
Despite all this, Thompson met the qualifications to rent a vehicle from Hertz. According to the company’s website, renters need to be at least 20 years old and have a valid driver’s license and credit card.
In a statement, a Hertz spokesperson said the MSP Airport location is “cooperating fully” with the police investigation but declined to comment further.