Many vehicles at Tanner Motors in west Brainerd were damaged during the early morning hours Sunday, May 16, when a suspect crashed his vehicle into them, ending a high speed chase in Brainerd.

Tire tracks can be seen here Sunday, May 16, 2021, marking the trajectory of a where a vehicle left the road and crashed into several vehicles at Tanner Motors on Washington Street in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
Tire tracks can be seen here Sunday, May 16, 2021, marking the trajectory of a where a vehicle left the road and crashed into several vehicles at Tanner Motors on Washington Street in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Brainerd police officers were investigating a suspected intoxicated driver at 1:11 a.m. near West College Drive and Southwest Fourth Street in Brainerd, near Central Lakes College. The driver initially stopped, but then took off from officers and a chase ensued north on Southwest Fourth Street toward Washington Street, police reported. The suspect, a 32-year-old man, then headed west on Washington Street. In the area of Northwest Sixth and Washington streets, the driver struck numerous new vehicles in the Tanner Motors sales lot. The suspect vehicle became disabled and the driver was taken into custody without incident, police reported.

The suspect was transported for minor injuries to Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd and later released to the custody of Brainerd officers and transported to the Crow Wing County Jail in Brainerd. Police stated the man was arrested for fleeing in a motor vehicle, driving under the influence and driving after cancellation-inimical to public safety, meaning the driver’s license has been canceled as the driver is not able to drive safely around others.

Damaged vehicles can be seen here Sunday, May 16, 2021, at Tanner Motors on Washington Street in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
Damaged vehicles can be seen here Sunday, May 16, 2021, at Tanner Motors on Washington Street in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

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The Minnesota State Patrol conducted the crash investigation. Officers from the Nisswa and Baxter police departments, Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office and Brainerd Fire Department assisted in the investigation.

Damaged vehicles can be seen here Sunday, May 16, 2021, at Tanner Motors on Washington Street in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
Damaged vehicles can be seen here Sunday, May 16, 2021, at Tanner Motors on Washington Street in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Jeff Heinlen, Chrysler sales manager at Tanner Motors with the company since 2006, said nothing like this has ever happened at the car dealership off Washington Street in west Brainerd.

Heinlen said three vehicles were totaled, eight had extensive damage and another 13 or so had some kind of paint or other exterior damage.

“We're just waiting for the insurance company to let us know what to do next,” Heinlen said.

Having fewer vehicles on the car dealership lot to sell adds stress to an already low car inventory.

“Our new car inventory is down, and that can't be helped,” Heinlen said. “But when you take up to 15 cars off the lot and not be able to sell them — that’s about 35-40% of what our inventory is on the Chrysler side right now.”

Reuters reported from delayed car deliveries to a supply shortfall in home appliances to costlier smartphones, businesses and consumers across the globe are facing the brunt of an unprecedented shortage in semiconductor microchips.

Automobiles have become increasingly dependent on chips — for everything from computer management of engines for better fuel economy to driver-assistance features such as emergency braking.

The shortage stems from a confluence of factors as carmakers, which shut plants during the COVID-19 pandemic last year, compete against the sprawling consumer electronics industry for chip supplies, Reuters reported this spring.

Consumers stocked up on laptops, gaming consoles and other electronic products during the pandemic, leading to tighter inventory. They also bought more cars than industry officials expected last spring, further straining supplies.

Sanctions against Chinese tech companies have further exacerbated the crisis, Reuters reported. Originally concentrated in the auto industry, the shortage has now spread to a range of other consumer electronics, including smartphones, refrigerators and microwaves.

Heinlen speculates the shortage of car inventory will improve in the next six months.

Heinlen said their maintenance manager is a Brainerd firefighter and responded to the crash and saw the damage firsthand.

“Our phones were blaring right away at 1:30 in the morning,” Heinlen said. “All the employees and managers were calling each other.”



JENNIFER KRAUS may be reached at jennifer.kraus@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5851. Follow me at www.twitter.com/jennewsgirl on Twitter.
Reuters contributed to this story.