Crookston man dies in fiery crash following police pursuit

CROOKSTON, Minn. -- A 27-year-old Crookston resident and self-employed businessman died Sunday in a fiery car accident after a high-speed pursuit with police.

A man was killed after crashing a pickup truck into a concrete underpass Sunday in Crookston following a high-speed chase with police. A witness said the pickup truck exploded upon impact and burst into flames. SUBMITTED PHOTO

CROOKSTON, Minn. -- A 27-year-old Crookston resident and self-employed businessman died Sunday in a fiery car accident after a high-speed pursuit with police.

The Crookston Police Department was called to check on Dominic Herkenhoff’s well-being Sunday evening. Cpt. Mike Hanson of the Minnesota State Patrol would not say why police were checking on the man, adding the incident is still under investigation.

When a Crookston police officer found Herkenhoff’s distinctive 1986 GMC pickup - an orange and black work truck with painted, white flames licking the hood - the officer pulled him over to talk, according to Hanson.

During their conversation, Hanson said Herkenhoff took off and fled into the Crookston High School parking lot nearby. Officers did not know why he left the scene and that it is still under investigation, Hanson said.

“Sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason to it,” he said.


Soon thereafter, Herkenhoff rammed into the pursuing officer’s patrol car and then took off down U.S. Highway 2.

The pursuit began with the pickup heading toward downtown Crookston at a high speed.

But Herkenhoff did not go far - only about a mile - before crashing into a concrete post supporting the overpass near the intersection of U.S. Highway 2 and North Main Street, his truck exploding into flames upon impact, Hanson said.

“The damage to the vehicle was severe, and the fire was literally instantaneous,” he said.

Accident reconstruction experts are working to piece together what happened leading up to the crash, including whether or not Herkenhoff tried to avoid the concrete post, Hanson said.

No one else was harmed during the pursuit or fire, he added.


Herkenhoff was a self-described “jack-of-all-trades,” who earned a living doing lawn care, auto detailing, snow removal and asphalt seal coating, according to leaflets pictured on his Facebook page.


He was self-employed under the business names Get-R-Done Lawn Care Service and Git-R-Done Asphalt, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State website.

“Getting it done” seemed to have been his motto.

A Facebook user who identifies himself as Kevin Myer wrote on Herkenhoff’s page Monday, “Over the years, I was lucky enough to enjoy his humor, his madness, his wisdom and his generousness of spirit. My heart goes out to his family along with my gratitude. Thank you for giving us one of the kindest, most genuine individuals I’ve had the good fortune of knowing.”

He ended the post by writing, “Git er done, Dom!”

Pursuit policy

Police pursuits do not occur often in Crookston.

Crookston police or the Polk County sheriff’s deputies initiated four out of the 889 reported pursuits in Minnesota in 2013, according to the Uniform Crime Report.

Fatalities are even rarer, with only one person losing their life during a Minnesota pursuit last year.


According to Crookston Police Department policy, officers must weigh a number of concerns when deciding whether to pursue a fleeing vehicle, including:

  • How urgent it is to apprehend the suspect.
  • Whether it would be more dangerous to pursue the suspect or to let him escape.
  • Whether the suspect is known and can be taken into custody later without risking harm to another.

“These are the situations none of us want to find ourselves in,” Hanson said. “We need to constantly evaluate the situation and weigh the benefits of continuing the pursuit against the risks.”
According to the Crookston Police Department’s policy, a pursuit is justified when a driver fails to stop after being given a clear, visible and audible signal by an officer and there is a reasonable expectation of a successful apprehension.

The policy notes officers may stop a pursuit when it endangers public safety, radio communication goes out, the officer loses sight of the person being pursued or the pursuit becomes too risky to justify.

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