Trucker Who Drove Into Massive Protest Along I-35 Bridge Charged With Multiple Crimes
Minneapolis, MN – The trucker who drove his semi-tanker into a crowd of protesters along Interstate 35 in Minneapolis earlier this year has been charged with multiple crimes.
In an announcement on Thursday, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said 35-year-old trucker Bogdan Vechirko, of Otsego, MN, is charged with a felony count of threats of violence and a gross misdemeanor count of criminal vehicular operation.
If convicted on both charges, Vechirko could face up to six years in prison and up to a $13,000 fine.
The much discussed incident occurred on May 31, 2020 along a bridge on I-35W and garnered worldwide attention.
Incredible video of Vechirko driving his semi-tanker into a crowd of approximately 5,000 protesters and miraculously avoiding each person quickly went viral.
Vechirko was initially arrested and held by authorities for 48 hours on a probable assault charge.
However, he was released without filing formal charges pending further investigation which enraged many in the local community.
Multiple petitions were launched demanding Hennepin County authorities “charge and convict” Vechirko.
In June, Hennepin County authorities indicated to Transportation Nation Network (TNN) that charges could soon be filed.
After an almost five month investigation, which included review of cell phone videos captured at the scene, traffic cameras, and a re-enactment of the incident, authorities finally released their findings.
“While the protestors were sitting and standing on the bridge, a semi-truck with a tanker trailer approached the bridge from the south,” the criminal complaint states. “The truck was caught on traffic cameras driving directly into the crowd at a high rate of speed. The truck was observed failing to stop for the crowd until an individual stumbled and fell, compelling the driver to stop.”
Further, the complaint alleges, “The re-enactment showed that Vechirko’s line of sight would have provided him sufficient time to see the crowd and stop his truck well short of them.”
Investigators say they also spoke to numerous people who said that they thought they were going to be struck or killed by the truck.
Incredibly, no one was struck and only one person suffered minor abrasions as she attempted to avoid the truck’s path.
Vechirko was remarkably able to safely bring the semi-tanker to a stop on the bridge even as multiple protesters climbed onto the rig and bashed in the windshield.
From there, protesters pulled him from the truck and began beating him, causing facial cuts and abrasions.
His wallet, cell phone and other personal belongings were reportedly stolen.
However, authorities have indicated no one will be charged for those crimes.
Police arrived to the scene within minutes and dispersed the crowd with a chemical agent before whisking Vechirko away.
Many in the trucking community were quick to come to Vechirko’s defense as the protesters did not have a permit to be on the roadway at the time of the incident.
In August, TNN spoke with Minnesota State Representative Cal Bahr (R) about what happened.
Bahr, who has a more than 30-year career as a trucker and is currently a semi-tanker driver, argued Minnesota law enforcement and Department of Transportation (MnDOT) officials should have never allowed the protesters to take to the highway in the first place.
“It was definitely avoidable,” Bahr said. “They were watching all these [traffic] cameras. They knew there was a big mob protest moving toward the freeway. You can’t block the protesters from going on? Nobody took any action to prevent a fuel truck and protesters from coming within a hair’s breadth of death.”
Bahr claimed if Hennepin County authorities ultimately filed charges against Vechirko they would be displaying “political bias.”
“Mr. Vechirko should have been able to operate down an interstate highway not expecting to see pedestrians standing in the middle of the freeway,” he asserted.
According to multiple sources with direct knowledge, Vechirko has received death threats and has been in hiding since he was released from jail.
His first court appearance is scheduled for Tuesday, November 10, 2020.
TNN will continue to follow the case closely.