A Black Minnesota family feels they have been let down by police after a stolen vehicle with a granite block on the accelerator crashed into their home this month, as the man arrested on charges of being behind the crash already had been charged with violating a restraining order four times.
On Saturday, July 24, the vehicle smashed into the Cold Spring home of Phillipe and Andrea Robinson, about an hour northwest of the Twin Cities. Inside the SUV, a teddy bear was hanging from a noose, and the vehicle hit the home hard enough to do significant damage to the outside of the house as a child was sleeping inside a room not far from the impact. The Robinsons’ Ring camera captured video of the vehicle barreling into the home.
According to Stearns County Court records filed on July 26, Benton Beyer, a 32-year-old Richmond, Minnesota, man, was charged with felony theft of his roommate’s truck, stalking, first-degree damage to property with potential risk of bodily harm and violating a restraining order in connection with the crash. He appeared in court on Tuesday.
Andrea is white and Phillipe is Black. “How do I supposed to feel safe?” Phillipe said, speaking CBS Minnesota. “My wife, my children don’t want to stay here, and I understand.”
The family says Beyer had been harassing them for months before the abuse finally escalated. A restraining order preventing Beyer from having direct or indirect contact with Andrea for two years was filed on May 21. Since then, the order has been violated four times, and police have filed 18 calls in the past two months about Beyer harassing her.
“He’s ramped it up,” Phillipe said. “He went from busting out windows to shooting at cameras, to knowing our schedule well enough that he would follow my wife at grocery stores.”
The family says the harassment started after they put a Black Lives Matter sign in their yard and posted a video about racism in their children’s school.
Police said they will pursue hate crimes charges against Beyer if there is enough evidence, but the family doesn’t feel confident in the authorities and claimed that they gave up searching for Beyer because the cornfield he fled the scene to was wet and difficult to navigate, and that he was only captured when a neighbor turned him in.
Beyer remains in custody at the Stearns County Jail, and an online fund has been started to cover the Robinson family’s legal fees and home repairs.
Cold Spring Mayor Dave Heinen read a statement on Tuesday night at a Cold Spring City Council meeting where the Robinsons and other community members spoke about hate crimes and racial bias.
“The City of Cold Spring vehemently rejects racist behavior in all its forms. One of the most insidious forms, which is not always visible to the community, is harassment targeting a single community member or family,” the statement said.
“Racism is harmful first and foremost to the victims. The damage to the sense of security and peace of mind in their own home is even more significant than the property damage resulting from this incident and will leave them with lasting scars.”