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A driver has been charged, accused of crashing a stolen vehicle during a police chase in St. Paul, killing one of his passengers

Michael Anthony Bruce, 31, of Columbia Heights, is charged with two counts of criminal vehicular homicide, fleeing a peace officer and theft of a motor vehicle, all felonies. 

Brenda Lee Schaaf, 54, of Robbinsdale was killed in the crash, the Minnesota State Patrol said. She was in the back seat at the time of the wreck. Bruce and his other passenger, a 35-year-old woman from Minneapolis who was in the front passenger seat, suffered non-life-threatening injuries. 

Bruce was scheduled to make his first court appearance Friday.

The charges

According to the criminal complaint, Minnesota State Patrol troopers were patrolling in the area of Interstate 94 and Pascal Street in St. Paul when they observed a Kia Optima speeding down the interstate at about 2:20 a.m. on Jan. 4.

The troopers ran the vehicle's license plate and learned it had been reported stolen in Minneapolis the day before. 

The troopers saw the driver, later identified as Bruce, continuing to speed down eastbound I-94, making numerous lane changes and weaving in and out of the lane, charges said. 

Troopers tried to stop the vehicle as Bruce exited on Highway 61 southbound, but he started to "drive erratically, slowed and nearly stopped" but then rammed the back of a trooper's squad car and swerved to the right. 

A trooper activated the emergency lights and siren, at which point Bruce accelerated to 100 mph on southbound Highway 61. Troopers pursued the vehicle.

Bruce continued driving erratically, speeding and weaving in and out of the lane. He drove 3 miles and exited onto Bailey Road at a "high rate of speed," charges said.

Then, at the top of the ramp, Bruce attempted to slow and turn left but he oversteered, lost control and hit the concrete wall at about 50-60 mph, the complaint said. 

Bruce got out of the driver's seat and troopers handcuffed him. He said he ingested heroin and was wearing clothes with security tags still on them, prosecutors allege. He also complained of neck and back pain. 

The front-seat passenger had to be extricated from the vehicle. She complained of neck pain and had a small bag with suspected methamphetamine on her, the complaint states. There was also suspected heroin in a baggie and a needle in what is believed to be her jacket. 

She had multiple warrants for her arrest. 

Schaaf was in the back seat of the vehicle and after the crash complained of back, neck and arm pain, as well as difficulty breathing. She was secured with handcuffs, charges said. 

Bruce, Schaaf and the other passenger were taken to the hospital. Troopers learned on Jan. 4 that Schaaf had died of her injuries. 

The complaint does not specify the day she died, nor an official cause of death.

Police searched the vehicle and found suspected narcotics and paraphernalia, as well as needles that contained a brown tar-like substance. A small baggie of crystal-like substance was also found in the car. 

Bruce has pending charges of felony motor vehicle theft and DWI, the complaint said. There was also an active warrant for him.

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