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Father charged in St. Paul crash that seriously injured his children

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Police say a Brooklyn Park father was under the influence when he crashed a van into a St. Paul construction area, then fled the scene – leaving one of his children with a fractured spine and the other with a severely broken leg.

Earl Lionell Ward, 45, was charged Wednesday with eight different counts in connection with the Tuesday morning incident, including criminal vehicular operation causing great bodily harm while under the influence, endangerment of a child, and violation of a domestic abuse no contact order. (For a detailed look at the charges, see the Ramsey County criminal complaint filed against him).

The incident occurred shortly before 3:30 a.m. Tuesday near the intersection of Hazel Street and Mechanic Avenue. Police say Ward had a verbal altercation with his girlfriend, who is the mother of the children, after she got out of their vehicle and refused Ward's request to get back inside. He drove a short distance, crashed the van and ran from the scene with the two children still inside the vehicle, according to police.

According to police, the girl suffered a fractured spine and a serious head injury, and KARE 11 reports she may never walk again. The boy reportedly had a broken femur that pierced the skin, and a severed artery that required surgery. Both were taken to Regions Hospital.

The family had been at a drive-in theater, where Ward had been drinking, the complaint says. Ward and the woman reportedly argued on the way home, and she told police Ward had recently punched her and choked her.

Ward has what police describe as an "extensive criminal history" with 11 felony convictions, including assault, controlled substance offenses, fleeing police in a vehicle, and more. He was arrested Tuesday evening. He'd been wanted in Hennepin County for domestic assault, the complaint says. He was taken to the Ramsey County jail.

Ward's first court appearance is scheduled for Thursday at 1:20 p.m., the Ramsey County Attorney's Office says.

Details from the criminal complaint

According to the charging documents:

Police responded to the accident on Hazel Street and Mechanic Avenue shortly before 3:30 a.m. Tuesday, finding a woman – later identified as Ward's girlfriend – "running and screaming frantically." She pointed to a vehicle with "severe damage to the front end," sitting in a pavement cut-out in the middle of the street. The cut-out – about 8-10 inches deep – was clearly marked with orange cones, signs and caution tape.

Officers found two juveniles in the vehicle, one male and one female, later identified as children of Ward and the woman on the scene, his girlfriend.

The girl, age 14, was lying between the two front seats, conscious and breathing with her feet pointed toward the back of the van. She responded to officers, but did not move anything aside from her head.

The boy, age 9, was on his back in the front passenger seat, his head near the dashboard. He was conscious and breathing as well, but had a severely broken leg that was protruding through his skin, and he appeared to be in shock.

The four had gone to a drive-in movie theater the night prior, the girlfriend told police, along with her older son and his girlfriend. She said Ward was drinking alcohol during the movie, and also smelled what she believed to be crack cocaine on him.

She drove back, arguing with Ward during the ride, and went to her son's girlfriend's house on Mechanic Avenue. She, her older son and his girlfriend exited the vehicle, and Ward told her to get back in the car. She refused, so he slid over to the driver's seat and left.

She hear a loud crash shortly after and heard her two children crying in pain. She went to the vehicle and saw Ward outside of it, left to call 911, then when she returned said he was gone.

Ward was arrested at his sister's St. Paul address just after 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. He was inside a parked vehicle and smelled strongly of alcohol, and had a swollen, lacerated lip. Ward declined a post-arrest interview.

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