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After deadly crash, St. Paul barber mourned

LaShay Whittaker died after he was struck by the vehicle of a man fleeing from police in St. Paul on Friday, April 20, 2018. (Courtesy photo)1 / 2
Police arrested Shawn Michael Konder, 26, on suspicion of criminal vehicular homicide after a crash on Friday, April 20, 2018, in St. Paul that killed Lashay Whittaker, 41, of Mounds View. (Courtesy of the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office)2 / 2

ST. PAUL—A dad and a beloved St. Paul barber was on his way home Friday, April 21, when he was fatally injured by a man speeding away from police.

A longtime friend remembered LaShay Whittaker, 41, as the kind of man who used to give free haircuts to boys before the school year started at Grooming House on Selby Avenue at Milton Street.

"Shay was a really good guy who wanted to help our community," said Dora Jones, founder and executive director of Mentoring Young Adults, on Monday, April 23. "It's just a tragedy that we lost him."

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter also knew Whittaker for years and posted a remembrance of him Monday, saying, "It's a loss for our entire community; his family is in my prayers."

"I've known Shay since both of our days as standout high school sprinters," the mayor wrote in a Facebook post. "He was a good man and a skilled barber who has cut our son's hair for years. I last saw Shay just last week in the barbershop—he was smiling and joking like always. I was devastated this weekend to hear about the horrific and preventable accident that cost him his life."

Police arrested Shawn Michael Konder, 26, of St. Paul on suspicion of criminal vehicular homicide and terroristic threats. Investigators have forwarded the case to the Ramsey County attorney's office for charging consideration, according to police.

A relative told Jones that Whittaker worked on Friday, went to pick up food, and was heading home to his wife and two children.

Shortly before midnight, officers were called to an apartment on Blair Avenue on a report of a domestic situation. A woman reported to 911 that her boyfriend, identified as Konder, was fighting with her 14-year-old son. She said he had a machete and had tried to cut the teen, according to police.

Officers were told Konder had taken the machete and left in a van.

Konder nearly struck a squad car as an officer responded to the call, and another officer saw he was speeding through an alley without headlights on, police said.

Police activated their squads' emergency lights, but Konder didn't stop and "quickly disappeared" from sight, police said in a statement Saturday. Shortly after, officers heard a crash.

Officers found Whittaker in a vehicle that had apparently been struck by Konder's van, and they saw a badly damaged garage, according police. Konder was trying to run away when police arrested him.

Paramedics took Whittaker to Regions Hospital, where he died.

"Seeing the wreckage and that his car was split in half, that broke me down and I cried a lot," Jones said. "He was the kind of person who everyone respected and loved."

Police suspected Konder had consumed alcohol, and obtained a search warrant to draw and test his blood, according to a department spokesman. Results are pending.

At the time of his arrest, Konder was on supervised probation after pleading guilty in 2014 to aiding and abetting first-degree burglary.

Konder was cited for driving violations in 2010—driving without a valid license on two occasions and speeding—but the cases were later dismissed after he met conditions.