Michael Saunders was just about fall-down drunk early yesterday when he climbed behind the wheel of his minivan and transformed a small parking lot into his own amusement park from hell, cops said.
Bleary-eyed and wobbly-legged after a night of drinking, Saunders smashed into three cars after he left Albert’s Cafe in Northeast Philadelphia about 2 a.m., police said.
The real-life bumper car ride transformed into something far more sinister moments later when Saunders allegedly rammed his green Dodge Caravan into a 21-year-old woman outside the bar, said Capt. John McGinnis of Northeast Detectives.
Saunders, 39, fled the scene, but the maestro of mayhem was far from finished. He returned to the parking lot five minutes later, and sped toward a crowd that was trying to help the injured young woman.
One of the Samaritans, a 23-year-old man, was mowed down, but miraculously not killed, by Saunders’ minivan, McGinnis said.
Saunders fled the scene a second time, but was arrested by police at his Northeast Philadelphia home a short while later.
He was charged with multiple counts of attempted murder, driving under the influence, aggravated assault and related offenses.
“It shocks your conscience when you hear about these poor, innocent people who were out having a nice evening,” McGinnis said, “and then they run into a moron like this guy.”
Investigators knew of no motive that could explain Saunders’ shocking rampage.
“As far as we know, it all started outside the bar as an accident,” McGinnis said.
Saunders left Albert’s, on Grant Avenue near Academy Road, and struck another car as he attempted to leave the lot, McGinnis said.
The other driver exchanged words with Saunders, and punched Saunders’ side mirror.
“He [Saunders] then intentionally strikes the man’s vehicle five times,” McGinnis said.
Saunders, who was driving with a suspended license, “then backs into another vehicle, then comes up and hits a third vehicle,” McGinnis said.
The owner of the third car stood in front of the minivan and told Saunders to wait while police were called to the accident scene.
Saunders revved his engine, and inched the minivan toward the man, who pulled out a handgun in self-defense. The man, who was not identified, had a permit for the weapon.
McGinnis said Saunders slammed on the gas pedal, but ended up striking the man’s girlfriend, Chelsea Murnigham. She suffered injuries to her hip, shoulder, and right side.
Saunders sped away, but returned moments later, when 10 bar patrons tried to tend to Murnigham. McGinnis said Saunders sped across a median on Grant Avenue and raced into the parking lot toward the crowd.
The “van literally bounced in the air” as it rolled over Brian Reilly, of Penndell, McGinnis said. Reilly was taken to Aria Health-Torresdale in serious condition with shoulder injuries, he said.
Police caught up with Saunders outside his home on Fitler Street near Outlook avenue. “He was swaying, staggering and incoherent,” McGinnis said. “The whole thing is outrageous.”