ND man stole recovered custom mobility van


Zenker was in town for his first Vikings game at US Bank Stadium when his custom mobility van was stolen from the hotel parking lot.

A longtime Minnesota Vikings fan who lost his mobility van before the big Thanksgiving game received good news the next day.

“They told me my life expectancy was 50,” Zenker said.

Zenker, now 68, survived a car crash 34 years ago that left him paralyzed from the chest down.

“I spent half my life in the wheelchair, I didn’t sit down and mope on it, I just kept going,” Zenker said.

But after nearly six hours on the road from Gackle, North Dakota, his wheels hit a bump in the road Wednesday night after arriving in downtown Minneapolis.

Zenker was in town for his first Vikings game at US Bank Stadium.

Joel says he, his son and the caregiver checked into the Normandy Inn and Suites and parked his custom Chrysler Pacifica.

“It was brand new, I hadn’t even had it for a month,” Zenker explained.

They left for the evening, but when they came back…

“We were looking for my loader and all of a sudden we got off to get it, the van drove off,” Zenker said.

Zenker says he hadn’t even been in Minneapolis for six hours before someone could drive into a secure parking lot and exit with his van containing the bare necessities he needs to get by.

“There was an elevator and everything I used in there, I had my charger in there, my eating board, my hearing aid charger was in there too.”

Still in the van, a second set of keys that wouldn’t normally be there.

“We had some kind of confusion about it and nobody pulled out the key,” Zenker said. “We were here to have a good time and it kind of ruined the whole weekend.”

Even after another bump in the road, Zenker is still thankful he has enough strength to keep going.

“I’ve been through enough in my life, this won’t be the worst thing I’ve faced, you know what I’m saying, I just want my van back.”

On Friday, Minneapolis police said they located the van in the 3500 block of Sheridan Avenue North. Officials say the vehicle appears to be operational. No arrests were made.

According to the city’s Crime Dashboard, 5,502 motor vehicle thefts have been reported in Minneapolis so far this year, compared to 3,731 reported at the same time last year.

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