Updated: 2:57 p.m.
The truck driver who plowed through a crowd of protesters in May is now facing criminal charges of threats of violence and criminal vehicular operation.
Hennepin County prosecutors announced the felony and misdemeanor charges Thursday against Bogdan Vechirko, 35.
The charges stem from a May 31 incident in which Vechirko drove a semitruck with a tanker trailer on the Interstate 35W bridge during a large protest, where roughly 1,000 peaceful protesters gathered six days after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
Traffic cameras showed the truck barreling toward the crowd and failing to yield.
According to the criminal complaint, investigators used a similar semitruck to reenact the scene and found that Vechirko’s line of sight would have given him enough time to stop.
Prosecutors say Vechirko admitted that he was “kind of in a hurry” and hoped that if he went slow, the crowd would let him pass.
No one was seriously injured in the incident, but some protesters were seen in social media videos running away, while others rushed toward the driver, pulled him out of the cab and threatened to throw him over the bridge, according to video on social media and witness accounts.
Two days after the incident, Hennepin County prosecutors deferred charging decisions in the case pending further investigation and released Vechirko from custody.
Vechirko’s lawyer, Kevin DeVore, on Thursday called the allegations in the complaint a “misstatement of the truth and reality.” DeVore said prosecutors failed to consider the reaction time to stop a truck of that size and the skill necessary to operate it.
“The fact is that Bogdan was driving an 88,000-pound gas truck and completely out of nowhere he encounters a mob of people on the freeway where they are not supposed to be,” DeVore said in a text to MPR News. “The complaint fails to take into account the necessary reaction time it takes to process this information and the skill it takes to maneuver an 88,000-[pound] truck under the circumstances.”
A spokesperson for the Hennepin County Attorney's office declined to comment Thursday on what led prosecutors to charge Vechirko nearly five months after the incident.
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