Officials Confirm Trucker Who Drove Into Protest Had No Intent to Harm
Minneapolis, MN – Authorities in Minnesota said the trucker that drove through a group of protesters along Interstate 35W on Sunday in Minneapolis did not do so intentionally.
In a joint press conference with Minnesota Governor Tim Walz on Monday, State Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington answered questions about Sunday’s incident to an inquiring group of reporters.
As Transportation Nation Network (TNN) reported on Sunday, a semi-truck was caught on Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) cameras driving into a crowd of approximately 5,000 protesters in the northbound lanes of I-35W around 5:50 p.m.
WATCH the video HERE.
Other videos captured by witnesses reveal 35-year-old Bogdan Vechirko of Otsego, MN, blaring the rig’s air horn as he approached the crowd before coming to a stop in the middle of the interstate.
While none of the protesters were injured, Vechirko was pulled from the semi by a group of angry protesters and violently beaten, while onlookers could be heard yelling “Kill his ass!” as others implored those beating the trucker to “Stop! It defeats our purpose!”
Police arrived on the scene within four minutes of the incident and deployed chemical agents to disperse the crowd.
Officers were seen protecting a shirtless Vechirko, who was bleeding from wounds to his face and body, and placing him in the back of a cruiser before transporting him to a hospital.
Harrington used Monday’s press conference as an opportunity to clear up some lingering questions surrounding the incident, such as why Vechirko was on the road to begin with.
According to Harrington, to comply with the city’s curfew amid ongoing riots and protests in the city, road closures in the area were initially planned for 8 p.m.
Harrington explained authorities asked MnDOT to move up its scheduled closure when officials noticed a group of protesters move from nearby U.S. Bank Stadium to the freeway around 4:30 p.m.
Vechirko was already traveling down I-94 and had turned onto I-35W before barricades or trucks were put in place to block access, officials said.
The owner of 36Lyn Refuel Station, located at 3551 Lyndale Avenue South, also confirmed Vechirko had just delivered to his location directly prior to the incident.
According to Harrington, Vechirko’s delivery at 36Lyn completed his second run of the day and the tanker was empty.
“He saw the crowd, and initially, what it looks like, he panicked and he just kept barreling forward,” Harrington stated.
Vechirko described to authorities he saw a “young woman on a bike fall down in front of him, and he slammed on the brakes.”
His truck then slid until it came to a stop.
While Harrington said the investigation is still open, he made clear that there was not any evidence to believe this was an intentional act.
Harrington again iterated Vechirko did not bypass barricades in order to get to the protest.
“He knew the protest was going on, but it doesn’t appear he was driving to intersect the protest,” Harrington explained.
However, Harrington said there is information to believe that Vechirko was speeding at the time of the incident.
On Sunday night, TNN reported Vechirko was taken into police custody at 8:58 p.m. after being released from the hospital.
At that time, officials said Vechirko was being held on a probable assault charge.
During the press conference, Harrington did not specify if he was still being held in police custody or the status of the potential assault charge.
TransportationNation.com will continue to monitor new developments in the case.