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North Dakota man's stolen customized mobility van has been found

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


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

The van has been found.

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

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

"I've spent half of my life in the wheelchair, I've not sat and moped about it, I've kept going," said Zenker. 

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

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

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

"It was brand new, I hadn't even had it a month," explained Zenker. 

They left for the evening, but when they returned...

"We were looking for my charger and all of a sudden we come down and look for it, the van is gone," said Zenker. 

Zenker says he hadn't even been in Minneapolis for six hours before someone was able to get into a secured parking lot and drive out with his van containing his bare necessities that he needs just to get by.

"It had a lift and everything in there that I use, I had my charger in there, my board to eat, my hearing aid charger too was in there."

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

"We kind of had a mix-up on that and nobody took the key out," said Zenker. "We were here to have a good time and it kind of just ruins the whole weekend."

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

"I've coped with enough stuff in my lifetime, this ain't going to be the worst thing I've coped with you know what I'm saying, I'd just like to have my van back."

On Friday, Minneapolis Police said they located the van on the 3500 block of Sheridan Avenue North. Officials say the vehicle appears to be operational. No arrests have been made.

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

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