Brainerd police chase ends with suspect crashing into vehicles at Tanner Motors

Tire tracks can be seen here Sunday, May 16, 2021, marking the path of a vehicle where one vehicle left the road and crashed into several vehicles at Tanner Motors on Washington Street in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Brainerd police were investigating a suspected drunk driver at 1:11 a.m. near West College Drive and Southwest Fourth Street in Brainerd, near Central Lakes College. The driver stopped first, then took off from officers and a chase ensued north on Southwest Fourth Street toward Washington Street, police reported. The suspect, a 32-year-old man, then headed west on Washington Street. In the Northwest Sixth and Washington Street area, the driver collided with numerous new vehicles in the Tanner Motors sales lot. The suspect vehicle became invalid and the driver was taken into custody without incident, police reported.

The suspect was transported with minor injuries to Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd and later turned over to the custody of Brainerd’s officers and transported to the Crow Wing County Jail in Brainerd. Police said the man was arrested for fleeing in a motor vehicle, driving under the influence and driving after cancellation, which was against public safety, meaning the driver’s license was canceled because the driver is not able to drive safely with others.

The damaged vehicles can be seen here Sunday, May 16, 2021, at Tanner Motors on Washington Street in Brainerd.  Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

The damaged vehicles can be seen here Sunday, May 16, 2021, at Tanner Motors on Washington Street in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

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The Minnesota State Patrol investigated the crash. Officers from the Nisswa and Baxter Police Department, the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office and the Brainerd Fire Department participated in the investigation.

The damaged vehicles can be seen here Sunday, May 16, 2021, at Tanner Motors on Washington Street in Brainerd.  Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

The damaged vehicles can be seen here Sunday, May 16, 2021, at Tanner Motors on Washington Street in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Jeff Heinlen, Chrysler sales manager at Tanner Motors with the company since 2006, said nothing like this had never happened at the Washington Street car dealership west of Brainerd.

Heinlen said there were three vehicles in total, eight had significant damage and about 13 others had some sort of paint or other exterior damage.

“We’re just waiting for the insurance company to tell us what to do next,” Heinlen said.

Having fewer vehicles on the dealer’s lot for sale adds stress to an already low car inventory.

“Our new car inventory is down, and that can’t be helped,” Heinlen said. “But when you take up to 15 cars from the lot and you can’t sell them, that’s about 35-40% of our inventory on the Chrysler side right now.”

Reuters has reported from car delivery delays to a supply shortage of home appliances for more expensive smartphones, businesses and consumers around the world are facing an unprecedented shortage of semiconductor microchips.

Automobiles have become increasingly dependent on chips – everything from computerized engine management for better fuel economy to driver assistance functions such as emergency braking.

The shortage stems from a confluence of factors as automakers, which shut down factories during the COVID-19 pandemic last year, compete with the sprawling consumer electronics industry for chips, reported Reuters this spring.

Consumers stocked up on laptops, game consoles and other electronics during the pandemic, which has led to a tighter inventory. They also bought more cars than industry officials expected last spring, which has further strained supplies.

Sanctions against Chinese tech companies have further exacerbated the crisis, Reuters reported. Initially concentrated in the automotive industry, the shortage has now spread to a range of other consumer electronics, including smartphones, refrigerators and microwaves.

Heinlen believes the car inventory shortage will improve over the next six months.

Heinlen said his maintenance manager was a Brainerd firefighter and responded to the crash and saw the damage firsthand.

“Our phones were ringing right away at 1:30 am,” said Heinlen. “All the employees and managers called each other.”

JENNIFER KRAUS can be contacted at [email protected] or 218-855-5851. Follow me on www.twitter.com/jennewsgirl on Twitter.
Reuters contributed to this story.

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