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Fleeing driver kills Fridley, Minn., mom, two young sons

ST. PAUL Amanda Jean Thomas was thrilled over the recent arrival of her second son. Thomas had her first son, Andre, when she was 17, and raised him as a single mother over the next 12 years. In late August, Akeron arrived. "She painted his room ...


Amanda Jean Thomas was thrilled over the recent arrival of her second son.

Thomas had her first son, Andre, when she was 17, and raised him as a single mother over the next 12 years. In late August, Akeron arrived.

"She painted his room and put his name on the wall and had everything as far as furniture and baby clothes," friend Amber Gilpin said. "They were ready to have a good life together."

They won't get that chance. Early Sunday, Thomas, 29, of Fridley, and her two boys -- Andre Mack II, who was 12, and 3-month-old Akeron Thomas -- were killed after a man fleeing a state trooper in a stolen vehicle crashed into their car on Broadway Avenue in North Minneapolis.


The driver of the stolen car, Rufus Onel Victor, 29, of Edina, ran from the scene but was found and arrested a short time later, Minnesota State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske said. Victor was booked into Hennepin County Jail on suspicion of criminal vehicular operation and fleeing a police officer.

Victor appeared to be "chemically impaired," Roeske said. Results of a blood test were not immediately available.

"This was obviously a horrific situation caused by what appears to be an impaired driver in a stolen vehicle who showed total disrespect for anyone's safety," he said. "And even after he caused this crash, he still took off with no regard for what he had done to those people he hit."

Victor has been in trouble with the law before, including last Monday, when he was

arrested on suspicion of car theft, court and jail records show.

On Sunday about 12:30 a.m., a trooper saw Victor driving a Honda Accord erratically on westbound Interstate 94 and tried to pull him over just south of the Dowling Avenue exit, Roeske said. Victor got off at Dowling, took two quick right turns and sped south on Second Street.

When Victor reached Broadway Avenue, he ran a red light and plowed into the driver's side of Thomas' car, which was heading east on Broadway, Roeske said. Thomas and her 12-year-old son died at the scene. The infant died a short time later at an area hospital.

The impact of the crash caused Thomas' car to slam into a third car; no one in that car was seriously injured.


Witnesses saw the Honda driver run away and gave officers his description, Roeske said. Minneapolis police set up a perimeter, and a canine tracked the suspect's scent to Victor, who was hiding near railroad tracks.

The state trooper didn't realize the Honda had been stolen until after the crash.

Kim McClain, a bartender at Good Sports Bar and Grill, near the crash site, said Sunday afternoon that no one inside the noisy bar realized there was a crash until they saw the lights from squad cars. She didn't know it was deadly until later Sunday morning.

"This makes me so sad," she said.

Court records show Victor has prior convictions for theft, receiving stolen property, burglary and car theft.

On Nov. 13, Victor was stopped by Minneapolis police for driving a stolen vehicle, but he abandoned the car and fled.

He was arrested Nov. 29 on suspicion of receiving/concealing stolen property, and the case was submitted to the Hennepin County attorney's office the next day for possible charges, Minneapolis police spokesman Sgt. William Palmer said.

Victor was released from Hennepin County Jail after a 48-hour hold expired, jail records show.


Gilpin and several other friends of Thomas' gathered at the crash site Sunday afternoon. After tying balloons and flowers to a light pole, they talked of Thomas as a committed mother.

"She took good care of her kids," friend Kay DeMars said. "She was happy."

Gilpin said Thomas' 12-year-old was excited about being a big brother.

"He played with him and entertained him and always wanted to hold him," she said.

Thomas' friends didn't know where she was coming from or headed at the time of the crash.

Thomas grew up in Northeast Minneapolis and attended Northeast Middle School and Edison High School. She dropped out of high school after having her first son.

She had no immediate family in the Twin Cities, her friends said.

Thomas would do "just about anything" for her friends, Gilpin said. She recalled how Thomas recently pushed her broken-down car several blocks with her pickup truck so it wouldn't get towed.


"She was always there for you," Gilpin said.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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