COLD SPRING — A Cold Spring family for two months has been the target of alleged racist harassment that came to a head Saturday when a stolen SUV with a piece of granite on the accelerator crashed into their home.
The vehicle hit hard enough to cause extensive damage to the house and shifted a vehicle inside the family’s garage, according to Stearns County Court documents. A child was sleeping in the living room at the time of the crash, just a short distance from where the vehicle struck the house.
Inside the SUV a teddy bear hung from a noose, according to photos shared by the homeowners, Andrea and Phil Robinson, with the St. Cloud Times. There is a video of the crash as well.
A Richmond man, Benton Beyer, 32, has been charged with felony theft, stalking, first-degree damage to property with potential risk of bodily harm and violating a restraining order, according to Stearns County Court documents filed Monday.
Stearns County court issued a harassment restraining order on May 21 that prohibited Beyer from direct or indirect contact with Andrea Robinson for two years. Since then, he’s been charged four times with violating the restraining order.
The harassment began when Robinson reported her Black children were the target of racist bullying in ROCORI public schools.
“These are hate crimes,” Robinson said Sunday on the Trahern Crews Show on 94.1 FM Frogtown Community Radio.
The St. Cloud Times has asked staff in the Stearns County Attorney’s office whether they considered hate crime charges. After forwarding on the question, the staffer noted that the office has a no-comment policy on active prosecution matters.
A call and email to Cold Spring Mayor Dave Heinen were not returned Tuesday by deadline.
The Robinsons plan to bring their concerns to the Cold Spring City Council meeting Tuesday evening.
Andrea Robinson was not available for an interview with the St. Cloud Times Tuesday morning, but she granted permission to use the family’s photos and online posts and to publish their names.
“Two days prior (to the crash) I contacted the chief of police, simply begging for him to review the case, because someone in our family could lose their life or be severely hurt,” Andrea Robinson said in the interview with Trahern Crews. She said she feels the police left her family without protection Saturday morning.
The vehicle crashed into the Robinson’s home around 5:30 a.m.
“Officers attempted to search the field for the suspect but the field was extremely wet and difficult to navigate through so the search was terminated,” according to the criminal complaint charging Beyer in Saturday’s incident. Officers found Beyer at 10 a.m. near Alexander Park in Cold Spring, and he was soaking wet.
The Cold Spring/Richmond police take their duties to respond to criminal activity and threats to residents’ safety seriously, said Police Chief Jason Blum in a statement on Tuesday. The investigation into the Saturday incident is ongoing.
“Investigations into alleged crimes that are supported by facts, based upon evidence, are submitted to the City or County Attorney’s Office for review for criminal charges under the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” Blum said in the statement. “If evidence of a racially motivated crime is found to have occurred, our department will seek prosecution to the fullest extent under the law. We appreciate the community’s patience with the criminal investigation process.”
State Rep. Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring asked the community to rally around the Robinson family.
“I’m deeply disturbed by the attack that took place in Cold Spring this weekend. While there was thankfully no loss of life or injuries, we still have a family that has been targeted by a pattern of despicable hatred,” she said in a statement issued late Monday. “Now is the time for the Cold Spring community to rally around this family and send a clear message that hate and racism have no place here, and we won’t tolerate one of our neighbors being treated this way. My prayers are with the family for healing and that they will be surrounded with love and support in the coming weeks.”
This is a developing story and may be updated.