Brainerd man wants justice after fleeing suspect crashes vehicle into his house
4 months after the crash, 72-year-old Louis Janousek is still trying to repair his home.
A passenger car that crashed into Louis Janousek’s Brainerd home last fall has been a thorn in the 72-year-old man’s side, one that continues as he still is picking up the pieces.
Janousek was awoken just before 2 a.m. on Sept. 23, 2019, to a loud noise. He opened his eyes and saw a piece of aluminum in his bedroom. He initially thought his dog did something.
“I got up and saw a flashlight in the bedroom and wondered what the heck,” Janousek said. “I went to the front door and there is a car ... a red four-door Grand Am with its front end all the way back to the windshield. Here it was the cop (with the flashlight) and I looked at him and I said where is that SOB and he told me to stay where I was ... I was not dreaming.”
Brainerd police arrested the driver of the car — Zachary Lee Schneider, a 27-year-old Harris man — who was changed Sept. 25, 2019, in Crow Wing County District Court in Brainerd on three felonies of first-degree property damage, fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle and fifth-degree drug possession; three misdemeanors of fleeing a peace officer by other means than a vehicle, driving after revocation, not carrying proof of insurance; and petty misdemeanor charge of possessing drug paraphernalia.
Schneider was sentenced Jan. 6 by Judge Christopher Strandie to five years of supervised probation and a 13 month stayed sentence. A stayed sentence means if he violates the terms of his probation, he may have to serve the original prison sentence the judge imposed.
The sentencing came after a plea agreement was reached, where Schneider pleaded guilty to fifth-degree drug possession and the other five charges against him were dismissed.
Schneider was given credit for the 106 days of jail time he had already served. Conditions of his release include cooperating with his probation officer; following all state and federal criminal laws; not using or possessing a firearm, ammunition or stun guns; losing voting rights; not using or consuming alcohol, controlled substances or drug paraphernalia, or entering any bar or liquor establishments.
Schneider also must pay restitution, an amount yet to be determined, and $210 in court/fine fees.
The case against Schneider began when Brainerd police were on a routine patrol Sept. 23, 2019, and an officer observed a vehicle driving north on the 1100 block South Sixth Street in Brainerd. The officer attempted to stop the vehicle on suspicion of illegal drug activity and the driver immediately increased speed and turned east onto Quince Street. A police pursuit began and the vehicle continued at a very high rate of speed. When the vehicle attempted to turn north onto South 10th Street, the driver lost control and ran off the road at the northeast corner of that intersection and collided with Janousek’s house. Schneider exited the vehicle from the driver's side and fled on foot westbound across South 10th Street. An officer chased Schneider over a fence and into a backyard. Schneider continued running but got into the northwest corner of the backyard and was unable to scale a tall privacy fence, according to the criminal complaint filed against Schneider. The officer drew his duty weapon and Schneider complied with verbal commands to get on the ground and was arrested.
Janousek’s house was heavily damaged. A wall was pushed away from the trim as well as the floor. There was a huge crack down the middle of the house. There was also a 2-inch opening between what appeared to be the truss of the floor. Upstairs in a bedroom, a cedar chest was pushed across the room and a window broken as well as drywall cracked and pulled away from the studs of the building. There also was damage to the foundation of the residence.
Janousek speaks out
Since that September day, Janousek has been working on fixing the damages to his house caused by Schneider. He said the cost of the materials alone is about $41,000 and is covered under his home insurance after he pays his deductible, but it doesn’t cover the labor to do the work. Janousek said he’s doing the work himself, aside from hiring someone to do the concrete and block work as the crash knocked the house off the foundation. He had a new bay window and front door put in to enclose the front part of the home. He has started to replace some of the wood around the frame of the house and the siding.
“As soon as it warms up I will be back out there to do the work,” said Janousek, who also noted he couldn’t find anyone to do the work on the house. “I can do the work, but I’m 72 years old. I’m not looking for sympathy. The thing is this little jerk is sitting in jail and we’re paying for him to eat macaroni and cheese and tuna fish sandwiches. That is where our tax dollars are going.”
Schneider’s stayed sentence also does not sit well with Janousek.
“That is a bunch of crap,” he said. “What is the matter with our judicial system?
“This guy destroys my house and gets probation. They need to wake up and smell the coffee.”
Attempts to contact Schneider were unsuccessful.
After this incident, Janousek also questioned the actions of the Brainerd Police Department.
“Brainerd police did a high speed pursuit after him behind Washington school and I confronted the police department and asked them, ‘When do you call this off? If you guys wouldn’t have been chasing him I doubt it very much that he would have hit my house,’” Janousek said. “... I feel as though it was their fault that he hit the house because he was trying to get away from them. He was going too fast to make the turn. When he made the turn, he flew in the air and came down and hit the sidewalk and then my deck and it was just a bunch of kindling when they pulled his car out.”
Brainerd Police Chief Corky McQuiston said he feels bad for Janousek, the victim, in the case. “It lasted like 50 seconds. ... The officer didn’t even get a chance to chase him because he saw the police car and started driving crazy and ran into that house before we were even behind him,” McQuiston said. “As far as saying we shouldn’t have pursued him or it was because we pursued him, no, (Schneider) did this all on his own. I can see if it was a long, drawn out high speed chase to see what our reasoning was and why we didn’t discontinue, but this was not the case here.”
McQuiston said the officer called it in at 1:48 a.m. and the man was arrested less than a minute later. McQuiston said all the police officers are highly trained. At every call the officers have to evaluate the situation and look at the danger to the public, and if a police chase is dangerous to the public, it is called off.
JENNIFER KRAUS may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 218-855-5851. Follow me at www.twitter.com/jennewsgirl on Twitter