EXCLUSIVE: Trucker Who Drove Into Minneapolis Protest Reaches Deal to Resolve Criminal Charges
Minneapolis, MN – The trucker who drove his semi-tanker into a crowd of protesters along Interstate 35 in Minneapolis last year is no longer facing jail time or a massive fine.
Bogdan Vechirko has reached a deal with the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office (HCAO) to resolve the criminal charges filed against him last October.
On Wednesday, February 3, Vechirko made his first appearance in court to be arraigned on a felony count of threats of violence and a gross misdemeanor count of criminal vehicular operation stemming from his role in the much discussed events which occurred on May 31, 2020 along a bridge on I-35W.
“Prior to the arraignment, there were discussions with our office and the defense on an alternative dispute resolution,” HCAO said in an exclusive statement to Transportation Nation Network (TNN). “In principle, an agreement was made by both parties to resolve this case.”
While the terms of that agreement have not yet been released, TNN has learned from sources with knowledge of the negotiations that Vechirko will be required to attend an “educational program” of some kind.
Still, it’s welcomed news for the former owner-operator who was facing up to six years in prison and up to a $13,000 fine.
The unforgettable incident garnered worldwide attention as incredible video of Vechirko driving his semi-tanker into a crowd of approximately 5,000 protesters enraged by the death of George Floyd went viral almost instantly.
Vechirko, who miraculously avoided each person on the bridge, 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 infuriated many in the local community.
Multiple petitions were launched demanding Hennepin County authorities “charge and convict” Vechirko.
In June, Hennepin County authorities indicated to TNN that charges could soon be filed.
Then in October, 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.”
However, videos captured by witnesses revealed Vechirko sounded the rig’s air horn as he approached the bridge.
Further, he swerved to avoid an individual on a bicycle before miraculously coming to a safe stop in the middle of the interstate even as protesters climbed onto the semi-tanker and began kicking in the windshield and attempting to shatter the driver’s side window.
From there, protesters pulled Vechirko from the truck and began beating him, inflicting facial cuts and abrasions.
His wallet, cell phone and other personal belongings were stolen.
Video later obtained by Vechirko’s defense counsel revealed a protester pointed a handgun at the trucker and fired multiple shots at the semi-tanker, blowing out a front tire.
However, authorities have indicated not one of the protesters will be charged for these crimes.
Police arrived to the scene within minutes and dispersed the crowd with a chemical agent before whisking Vechirko away.
Trucking Community Comes to Vechirko’s Defense
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.
Trucker and social media firebrand Rick Santiago, who became a household name within the grassroots trucking community during last year’s protest in Washington D.C. over alleged broker abuses, took to Facebook last summer to voice his concerns about the case.
“This isn’t about rates [no more], this is about our rights,” Santiago declared in a now “unavailable” video that was watched hundreds of thousands of times. “We have a right to stand our ground and defend ourselves.”
The New Jersey native argued that if Vechirko were to go to jail it would send a chilling message to all truckers.
“Our rights are truly being stripped from us.” Santiago fumed. “We basically have to sit there and let them beat our trucks, yank us out, beat us, and kill us because we have no protection now.”
James Lamb, president of the Small Business in Transportation Coalition (SBTC), was also outraged.
He has been working behind the scenes since October to push the HCAO to drop the charges which he believed were wholly unwarranted.
“The SBTC is absolutely ecstatic that justice prevailed,” Lamb told TNN. “We are glad the Hennepin County attorney finally stopped playing politics, came to his senses, and concluded that Mr. Vechirko was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Currently, the SBTC is actively lobbying members of the U.S. Congress to introduce what it calls the “Truck Driver Protection Act of 2021.”
The proposed legislation would crack down on those who perpetrate violence against truckers or interrupt commercial motor vehicle operators from safely carrying out their duties.
Click HERE to read more about it.
“Violent protesters have held America and the trucking industry hostage since May of 2020 and we are sick of it. It is time for Congress to step up and do more than ceremoniously just #ThankATrucker. Indeed, America’s transportation professionals who form our supply chain deserve more than just lip service from their leaders,” Lamb said.
Minneapolis On Edge
There is real concern these new developments could spark a reoccurrence of social unrest within the city.
Many people on the bridge that day have smeared Vechirko as a “white supremacist” and an “attempted murderer.”
There is, of course, no evidence to support these claims, but emotions are still high.
Further, Minneapolis remains a city very much on edge as the trial against Derek Chauvin, the police officer charged in the death of George Floyd, is slated to begin on March 8.
The trio of other officers also charged in connection to Floyd’s death are expected to be tried together this summer.
As for Vechirko, he has yet to publicly give his account of exactly what happened that day.
However, that could change soon.
Stay logged on to TransportationNation.com for the latest developments in this story.
Photos courtesy of Jamal Samaha/IG