The stolen car barreled across Court Street in the heart of downtown Buffalo Saturday morning, then slammed into a pillar outside the Hilton Garden Inn, clipped a parked van, and plowed through a Wi-Fi station, before rolling over several times, hurtling shards of debris all over Main Street.
Amazingly, the driver suffered only a hand injury. But in a bizarre twist to the spectacular crash, police said the driver had done the same thing a week ago.
Johnniemae Walker, 26, of Buffalo, a week ago stole an Orchard Park man's car and led transit police in a chase before crashing the vehicle on East Amherst Street near McCarthy Park.
This week, no one was chasing her.
Naimul Huda, a worker at the Tim Hortons coffee shop at Main and Court streets, was working the grill machine when he heard a large boom shortly before 8 a.m. Saturday.
"It was like a blast," he said.
He ran outside and saw smoke spewing from the mangled car, resting on the sidewalk with all of its airbags deployed. Shards of debris were scattered all over the ground. Some pieces cracked windows of a nearby storefront, looking like bullet holes. A large Blue Connector Wi-Fi station was knocked over.
A woman got out of the car, Huda said, and a customer from the coffee shop ran to her aid. Huda was surprised to see she wasn't hurt.
"She was good," he said. "Nothing happened to her."
Joe Vanleeuwen of Austin, Texas, who was staying at the Hilton Garden Inn, said he heard the crash from his fifth-floor room.
"It sounded like thunder," said Vanleeuwen, who learned what had happened when he came down to Tim Hortons to get some breakfast for him and his wife.
With debris strewn all over the rails on Main Street, Metro Rail service was shut down at the intersection for about an hour and a half during which time the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority operated a shuttle around the scene.
Walker was eastbound on Court Street and was speeding when she lost control of the vehicle shortly before 8 a.m., said NFTA police. The car was stolen but there's no indication she was being chased. The car went up over a curb at Lafayette Square before hitting the awning of the Hilton Garden Inn and the van, and rolling over.
Walker was "not cooperative" when police arrived and she was taken to Erie County Medical Center for treatment of a hand injury, NFTA officials said.
She was charged with unauthorized use of a vehicle without owner consent, criminal possession of stolen property, reckless driving and speed not reasonable and prudent. The car was stolen from Florida Street in Buffalo, authorities said.
Rail service was restored by 9:30 a.m. Saturday and Wi-Fi service from the Buffalo Connector station that was hit remained in effect. The hotel remained open.
Debris all over Main Street following crash at Court pic.twitter.com/PkAESBzqVk
— Maki Becker (@makibecker) April 8, 2017
On April 1, Walker was involved in another crash in a stolen car.
NFTA police said Walker stole a car from an Orchard Park man and led NFTA police on a chase before crashing the car on Amherst Street, near Manhattan Avenue at about 11:40 a.m.
In that case, Walker was held on two counts of fourth-degree grand larceny, third-degree unauthorized used of a motor vehicle, petit larceny and fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property. Police said last week that she was also the subject of Buffalo City Court and Amherst Town Court warrants in other cases.
Orchard Park Police Lt. Joseph Ray said police were alerted by an Orchard Park resident who noted Walker, who had been a house guest, drove off with his car, which also contained his wallet.
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