Trucker Beaten by Protesters Declines to Press Charges While Protesters Not So Forgiving
Minneapolis, MN – The protesters who pulled the driver of a semi-tanker from his truck before assaulting him on a Minneapolis intestate last weekend will not be charged.
According to Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) spokeswoman Jill Oliveira, those responsible for beating 35-year-old Bogdan Vechirko, of Otsego, after he unintentionally drove his rig into a crowd of protesters gathered on Interstate 35 last Sunday, will not be held to account.
Olivieria stated it was Vechirko who declined to press charges in the matter.
“The truck driver indicated to the BCA that he does not wish for charges to be filed against anyone for his injuries or damage sustained during the incident,” Oliveira said on Wednesday.
However, Oliviera also admitted on Wednesday that the focus of the BCA’s investigation was not on the protesters.
“The scope of the BCA investigation was to determine the intent of the truck driver,” she stated.
After initially being arrested a few hours after the incident, authorities on Tuesday released Vechirko from Hennepin County Jail without filing any charges against him.
However, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman informed that the investigation was ongoing and charges could still be filed.
At a press conference this week, Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said traffic cameras reveal Vechirko did not unlawfully access I-35 after it was abruptly shut down.
“From the traffic cams we know that the driver of the tanker truck was on the freeway already,” Harrington stated. “He was on 94 already and he turned down 35 before we got barricades or trucks to block off his access to 35.”
Officials were forced to quickly shut down the interstate at approximately 4 p.m., ahead of the city’s 8 p.m. curfew, because the thousands of protesters left nearby U.S. Bank Stadium to march along the roadway.
Harrington expressed the blame for the incident did not rest on authorities.
“I don’t see us as being culpable,” he said. “When you suddenly have a group of people run out into traffic, how fast can you … get the traffic stopped becomes problematic.”
While Harrington said it is likely Vechirko was speeding and “panicked” upon approaching the more than 5,000 estimated protesters, he did his best to avoid harming anyone on the bridge.
Video from the scene shows that after Vechirko successfully brings the rig to a stop without striking any of the scattering protesters, a group then descended on the truck.
NEW: Video shows the chaotic response as a man later identified as Bogdan Vechirko drove a tanker truck into a large crowd gathered on a highway in Minneapolis Sunday to demonstrate against the killing of George Floyd, with the suspect now in custody. https://t.co/oDD3g6MlBQ pic.twitter.com/xmE3Vdn5DC
— World News Tonight (@ABCWorldNews) June 1, 2020
Multiple people climb onto the tractor and begin bashing in the windshield.
Others are throwing objects and pounding on both sides of the vehicle causing it to rock from side to side.
After the rig moves backwards momentarily, Vechirko then sounds the air horn and slowly begins to accelerate forward as protesters hurl bicycles into the rig’s path.
The trucker drives a short distance before coming to a final stop.
He is then pulled from the truck and chaos ensues.
Fortunately, multiple protesters used their bodies to shield Vechirko from taking a potentially deadly beating.
Police arrived within minutes and quickly dispersed the crowd and transported Vechirko away from the scene.
According to Vechirko’s wife, Liudmila, the protesters then looted the truck and “stole his wallet, phone, and all the belongings from the truck’s cabin.”
Protesters Demand Charges For Vechirko
Now, anger is building that authorities released Vechirko without charging him.
One protestor who captured video of the incident was Rachael Wright.
She told the Star Tribune she believes that despite what authorities say, Vechirko intended to harm the protesters.
“Even once he got into the crowd, instead of going down the middle, where the crowd had already cleared out, he veered left, stopped, then kept pushing through the crowd despite the people in front of him,” said Wright. “So maybe the first plow through wasn’t enough to show intent, but the second was.”
Further, a Change.org petition demanding charges be brought against Vechirko was launched shortly following his release.
It has collected more than 4,000 signatures thus far.
One commenter, Grayson O’driscoll, from Duluth, said: “This is reckless endangerment no matter what way you look at it. He may not have tried to kill anyone but he sure as hell knew what he was doing.”
It is unclear what charges authorities are considering, but Harrington indicated, “We are certainly getting to the right charge that holds him accountable.”
Meanwhile, PayPal account, @freebogdan, has been set up for those who wish to help Vechirko financially with his legal and other expenses.
He has yet to make a public statement since the incident.
TransportationNation.com will continue to follow new developments.