Driver sentenced 3 years after fatal hit-and-run of cyclist

Driver claimed he was speeding from gunfire when he blew through intersection

WHITTIER — Three years after a hit-and-run accident killed Jessica Hanson her family can finally find closure.

Abdirahman Abdi Ali, 27, was sentenced to 39 months for fatally striking Hanson in South Minneapolis on July 3, 2013.

According to the criminal complaint, Hanson was riding her bicycle around 10:30 p.m.. at the intersection of Pleasant Avenue South and West 28th Street when Ali, speeding with his lights off, ran a stop sign and collided with Hanson. Hanson died at Hennepin County Medical Center two days later.

Ali kept driving and insists he was speeding from gunshots and trying to save his own life before hitting Hanson.

A witness followed Ali and gave police the license plate of the car. Ali turned himself in two days later, after learning police had traced the car to him.

Ali pleaded guilty to criminal vehicular homicide in April after the trial was delayed multiple times because of Ali changing lawyers and medical events involving attorneys.

At the sentencing, a video memorial celebrating Hanson’s life was played before impact statements were read by Hanson’s mother, father, brother, sister and cousin.

Ali said he felt terrible for the family’s loss and maintained his erratic driving was the effect of running from gunfire.

Before Ali was taken into custody, Hennepin County District Court Judge Fred Karasov berated Ali for leaving the scene and not taking responsibility for his actions. Karasov insisted Ali would have never turned himself in had the eyewitness not taken Ali’s license plate number.

Ali was also ordered to pay $34,784.23 to cover the cost of Hanson’s funeral.

Kevin Kirsch, a local cyclist who maintained Hanson’s ghost bike, a bike painted white that serves as a roadside memorial, said unsafe streets ruin lives. “It’s a tragedy for everyone,” he said. “It’s a tragedy for her and the family. It’s a tragedy for the man who hit her. It’s a tragedy for community members who want to feel safe in their neighborhoods.”