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Martha Perea was driving her 11-year-old daughter home from karate class Wednesday night when she called her husband to warn him that a multicar pileup was blocking traffic in their north Minneapolis neighborhood.

He never answered.

An SUV fleeing police had struck Jose Angel Madrid Salcido’s sedan minutes earlier, slamming his vehicle into a nearby lawn just two blocks from his home and creating the chaotic scene his wife would shortly pass.

When he failed to return home, Perea ran back to the crash site and, to her horror, saw his battered car amid the debris.

The 50-year-old father of four died about an hour later at North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale. Police say he lost his life to a 27-year-old driver who never should have been on the road.

Now his widow is left wondering how to support her children without the family’s sole breadwinner.

“We depended 100% on my husband,” Perea said in Spanish on Thursday as she wept on her front steps. “He was the only thing I had. He was everything.”

The event unfolded in a matter of minutes. Police had been called to the 3300 block of N. Aldrich Avenue by a report of two suspicious vehicles. Officers arrived about 6:20 p.m. with reason to believe that the cars were connected to a drug deal, said police spokesman John Elder.

The officers approached the drivers of each vehicle. As one officer returned to his squad car to use the computer, one of the suspect vehicles suddenly peeled off, nearly hitting the officer’s partner. That officer jumped out of the way and ran back to the cruiser in an attempt to pursue the driver, Elder said.

But before officers could catch up, they came upon the wreckage a few blocks to the north.

Emergency dispatch audio revealed a sergeant asking, “Is this a pursuit?” An officer replied, “Affirm,” followed by “The vehicle just crashed.”

The officers “were never close enough for it to be considered a pursuit,” said Elder, who added that they activated their car’s lights and siren.

The runaway driver, later identified as Trevon X.M. McMorris, reportedly struck two unoccupied cars in addition to Madrid Salcido’s sedan before coming to a stop.

Several loud booms sent Gina Gill and Cary Turner running out of their house to find the suspect’s red SUV resting on top of their white Cadillac. It was several minutes before they realized that another motorist was gravely injured farther down the block.

The couple watched as officers surrounded McMorris with guns drawn to make the arrest. “They took him immediately,” Gill said. “We’re lucky it’s not worse.”

Checkered driving record

Mark Zeiher, whose daughter’s vacant car was totaled in the crash, questioned the wisdom of even the shortest high-speed chase in areas where families live.

“[Police] can’t be flying through the residential neighborhoods chasing,” he said.

McMorris, a Brooklyn Park resident, remains jailed on suspicion of second-degree murder. A gun was discovered on the seat of his vehicle, according to emergency dispatch audio.

He was driving on a revoked license at the time of the crash, court records show, and he has persistently gotten behind the wheel illegally.

McMorris’ criminal history in Minnesota includes at least 10 convictions for driving with a suspended or revoked license, another 10 for driving without insurance or lacking proof of insurance, five for speeding, three for drug possession and one for disorderly conduct.

He also was convicted in Hennepin County District Court four weeks ago after pleading guilty to fleeing Brooklyn Park police in November. Police had stopped him for speeding, only to see him race away and elude capture once the pursuit was canceled out of concern for the safety of others.

Judge Jay Quam allowed McMorris to avoid jail time in that case because he seemed “particularly amenable to probation,” appeared remorseful and took responsibility for his actions, records show. The requirements of his supervised probation included 80 hours on a work crew and that he remain law-abiding, not possess firearms and complete a driver’s education program.

‘All in an instant’

Madrid Salcido, a contractor who remodeled homes and commercial buildings, moved to the Twin Cities four years ago from Chihuahua, Mexico. He settled in the McKinley neighborhood, where his wife and youngest child joined him two years later, she said.

They have no relatives in the state.

“I’m so sad. I can’t find the words to describe what happened,” Perea said while clutching a photo taken during last year’s Posadas (pre-Christmas celebration) at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in south Minneapolis.

“It was all in an instant,” she said, adding “there is no remedy for [this].”