Guilty pleas in West Bank murder and wrong-way drunk driving crash

Thursday,

Two men pleaded guilty to separate homicides, one a shooting and the other a wrong-way freeway crash, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Thursday.

Farhan Hersi, 30, of St. Paul, pleaded guilty to unintentional second-degree murder Wednesday afternoon as jury selection was about to begin. Hersi will be sentenced on Sept. 28.

Quoc Tran, 27, of Osseo, pleaded guilty Tuesday to two counts of criminal vehicular homicide in a crash on Interstate 94 which killed the driver and passenger in the other vehicle. He will be sentenced on Oct. 30.

In the Hersi case, according to the criminal charge and his own admissions in court, Hersi was in a car with 24-year-old Abdullahi Awil in the early morning of Aug. 31, 2017. The car was in the parking lot behind the West Bank’s Bullwinkle’s Saloon.

Hersi admitted he and friends had spent the night drinking at several bars and that he was drunk. Awil was not happy about rumors that Hersi might be dating one of Awil’s sisters and said there would be trouble if he did.  

Hersi testified that he remembered taking that as a threat, of being angry and after Awil got out of the car, he remembered grabbing a gun and going around the car. Hersi testified he did not remember pulling the trigger, but he has no doubt he killed Awil.

As part of the negotiations for the guilty plea, Hersi was allowed to plead guilty to unintentional, rather than the charged intentional second-degree murder. At the sentencing, the two sides will argue a prison sentence of between 10 years and 15 years.

In Tran’s case, he admitted that on Sept. 26, he had been to two downtown bars and drank 10 shots of tequila in about an hour-and-a-half. He said he was in a rush to get home at about 1:30 a.m., didn’t realize he was driving the wrong way and then remembered waking up in the hospital.

He admitted, and surveillance video confirmed, that he drove down an exit ramp to get on the freeway. He drove his BMW the wrong way on North Fourth Street from First Avenue North and was driving eastbound in the west lane of Interstate 94 near Lowry Avenue.

The result was that he was driving at freeway speeds when he crashed head-on with a car driven by 18-year-old Diana Rojas Martinez. Both she and her passenger, 19-year-old Christopher Bunay were killed.

Rojas Martinez’s father spoke and a letter was read from Bunay’s parents. Both of them said their children had bright futures in medicine and indicated they did not agree with the plea agreement because they wanted the maximum sentenced allowed under the law.

At the sentencing, prosecutors will be asking for the agreed upon eight-year prison sentence cap, which is the recommended sentence by the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines. Tran’s attorney said he will ask for a lesser sentence.