Childhood friends mourn death of man killed in hit-and-run in Plymouth; driver charged

·3 min read

Friends since childhood are mourning the death of a 66-year-old man who was fatally run over in his Plymouth neighborhood by a driver charged with felonies and accused of street racing.

Gregory M. Schneider, 66, was struck Wednesday night near his home on County Road 24, Michael Ricci and Mark Garsha said Friday.

Garsha, who lives in the Los Angeles area, said he, Schneider and Ricci "were all childhood buddies" on the East Side of St. Paul and attended school all the way through until graduating from St. Paul Johnson High School. "We still get together pretty regularly."

The driver, Jack H. Blaschke, of Delano, was booked into the Hennepin County jail shortly after 4 a.m. Thursday in connection with the collision near County Road 24 and N. 32nd Avenue, police said. He was charged Friday with two counts of criminal vehicular homicide and remains jailed in lieu of $150,000 bail. Court records do not list an attorney for him.

Blaschke's license status was "expired" at the time of the collision, according to the state Department of Public Safety. Court records show he received two speeding tickets last year in Hennepin County about eight weeks apart.

According to the charges, based on witness accounts and other investigatory information:

Blaschke pulled up next to another vehicle at a red light and honked three times, indicating a desire to race. He took off and topped 70 mph on a road with a 45 mph limit before hitting Schneider and his dog as they were crossing the street. Schneider and his black Labrador were killed. Blaschke drove off despite witnesses telling him to stop.

Once authorities caught Blaschke, he contended that he was driving 40 to 45 mph in the right-hand lane and became around a curve, where "a guy and his dog were just right there in front of him," the criminal complaint read. He said he panicked and went to a friend's house instead of staying at the scene.

Blaschke said his father had warned him about his driving habits. A few weeks earlier, Blaschke was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving in Plymouth.

Ricci visited Schneider's fiancée Thursday. He said he and others walked to where the crash occurred and spoke to a few people who lived nearby. Other than one witness saying there were four people in the car, he learned little about events leading up to his friend's death.

Schneider was enjoying retirement after a long stint as an engineer with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Ricci said. He had been engaged for about two years and was looking forward to his first marriage.

"Greg and I have known each other since third grade," said Ricci, who lives in Fridley. "He was the kind of friend you wish you had. You needed guidance, he'd let you have it. But if you're mom passed, he'd let you know he was there."

Ricci said Schneider was a godfather to his son, and "I'd see him every month. ... Think of your best friend, that's Greg."

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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