The man accused of driving at an extremely high speed and under the influence of drugs when he blew a red light and slammed into a sedan, killing five young women in Minneapolis in June, appeared in court Monday, where his attorney said that plea negotiations are ongoing.
Derrick Thompson, 27, rolled into the packed courtroom in a wheelchair and orange jumpsuit after his attorney and prosecutors met with the judge to discuss the status of negotiations in private. Little was said in open court during the 30-second hearing before Hennepin County Judge Carolina Lamas agreed to another continuance for Nov. 21.
Thompson is accused of speeding through a red light at 95 mph in a Cadillac Escalade on June 16 and broadsiding a sedan carrying five young Somali American women: Sabiriin Ali, 17, Sahra Gesaade, 20, Salma Abdikadir, 20, Sagal Hersi, 19, and Siham Adam, 19.
The Hennepin County Attorney's Office charged Thompson with 10 counts of criminal vehicular homicide — two felony counts for each victim. Charges accuse him of being under the influence and also having a Glock .40-caliber semi-automatic handgun with live ammunition in the extended magazine and large quantities of drugs.
Thompson also stands charged in federal court with intent to sell fentanyl and two counts related to illegal possession of a firearm in connection with the crash.
It was Thompson's second court appearance since the crash, the first being when his bail was set at $1 million.
Thompson is the son of former DFL Rep. John Thompson.
About three dozen of the women's family members and friends showed up to the brief hearing — so many that several had to sit out in the hallway. Many hugged each other and cried, still reeling from the fatal crash that sent shockwaves across the Somali American community. The funeral for the five Muslim women was attended by thousands.
Thompson's attorney Tyler Bliss said he and prosecutors are continuing to negotiate a potential guilty plea before requesting the hearing be continued. Dominick Mathews, managing attorney for the Hennepin County Attorney's Office, made no objections to the request and said nothing further.
The movement of Thompson's case may be reflective of the fact that he has a federal case related to the quintuple homicide, said Minneapolis civil rights attorney Jeff Storms, who is representing members of the women's families.
"Whenever there's both pending state and federal charges, it usually creates complications that are difficult to work out. … The federal case thus far has not moved along yet. The state case is outpacing it, and that may be just because Mr. Thompson is currently in state custody for the time being," said Storms, who announced after Monday's hearing that he is representing the five families in preparation for a potential lawsuit.
Storms would not disclose more about the civil litigation. He has represented several victims' families in high-profile cases such as the police killings of George Floyd, Daunte Wright and Amir Locke. He is also retained by the family of Leneal Frazier, who was struck and killed in 2021 by a speeding Minneapolis police squad car.
Thompson blew past a State Trooper on I-35W moments before the crash, but no pursuit was initiated before he struck the women's sedan.
Federal charges accuse Thompson of illegally possessing the firearm and intending to sell fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opioid. More than 2,000 pills that tested positive for fentanyl were found in his rental car, plus 13 ecstasy pills and 35.6 grams of cocaine.
Five of the state charges are for operating a vehicle in a grossly negligent manner, and the other five are for leaving the scene of a crash.
A search warrant for Thompson's blood sample says he required medical attention for a fractured hip and head laceration. Despite his injuries, he ran away from the scene. Bystanders called police when they saw a bloodied Thompson at a nearby Taco Bell.
County Attorney Mary Moriarty said her office will seek "separate sentences" for each victim if Thompson is convicted. Office spokesman Nick Kimball said in a message that "We pledge to hold Mr. Thompson accountable in a way that recognizes the lives of each victim and we do believe a significant period of incapacitation is necessary given his history."
He pleaded guilty in 2020 to a hit-and-run in California that left a tourist in a coma for weeks. His criminal history in Minnesota is peppered with driving-related illegalities.
Storms said the families had a chance to meet with the prosecution to share their expectations in the case.
"The hope is that there's immediate acceptance of responsibility so that the family can take another step towards healing," Storms said.