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ND man stole a custom van in downtown Minneapolis

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

MINNEAPOLIS — This Thanksgiving season, lifelong Minnesota Vikings fan Joel Zenker owes a lot.

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

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

“I’ve spent half my life in a wheelchair, I didn’t sit and brood, I just kept driving,” said Zenker.

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

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

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

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

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

“We were looking for my charger and suddenly we come down and are looking for it, the van is gone,” said Zenker.

Zenker says he wasn’t even in Minneapolis six hours before someone was able to pull into a secured parking lot and pull out their van with just the essentials they need to get through.

“It had a lift and everything I use in it, I had my charger in there, my board to eat with, my hearing aid charger was in there too.”

Also in the van a second set of keys that would not normally be there.

“We had a mix-up and nobody took the key out,” said Zenker. “We came here to have a good time and it kind of ruins the whole weekend.”

Even after another bump, Zenker is still grateful to have enough strength to keep going.

“I’ve been through enough things in my life, this isn’t going to be the worst thing I’ve been through, you know what I say, I just want my van back.”

Joel says his van had paper license plates, which he believes were probably removed.

Anyone who sees Zenker’s maroon Chrysler Pacifica is asked to call the Minneapolis Police Department.

According to the city’s Crime Dashboard, 5,502 auto 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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