Trucker’s drive through Minnesota protest not intentional, authorities say
June 1, 2020
•Land Line Staff
A truck driver was arrested on suspicion of assault after driving his tanker truck into an area filled with protesters on Sunday, May 31, in Minneapolis.
Bogdan Vechirko, a 35-year-old independent contractor for Canton, Ohio-based Kenan Advantage, was driving on Interstate 35 West on Sunday when his truck approached the crowd at speeds around 70 mph, according to Minnesota officials. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety said it did not appear that any protesters were hit by the truck.
The protests were in response to last week’s death of George Floyd.
“When you saw that truck going into that crowd, you just winced because you imagined you were going to see bodies under the tires of that truck,” said John Harrington, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. “When you didn’t see the bodies under the tires of the truck, it was, frankly, possibly a miracle. Because he was going 70 mph, as we understand it, or in that range, and even with him hitting the brakes and even with dry pavement, we got lucky, or something miraculous happened there.”
Harrington said Vechirko arrived on I-35 before the Minnesota Department of Transportation closed the highway.
“We don’t have any information that makes this seem like an intentional act,” he said. “He didn’t go around the barricades to get to the protest … He knew the protests were going on, but it doesn’t appear that he was driving to try to intercept the protests at this point.”
Harrington said he believes Vechirko “panicked” after seeing the crowd and then slammed on his brakes after seeing a woman on a bike fall down. Vechirko was injured by members of the crowd and then taken to a local hospital with not-life-threatening injuries.
“I think you had someone do something really stupid, got in a dangerous situation by people on the highway, feels incredibly lucky that he didn’t kill someone, and is really lucky that Minnesotans showed their better angels, and he didn’t get killed after he got pulled out,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said during a news conference on Monday.
Kenan Advantage released a statement about the incident.
“Our hearts go out to all those who are grieving the events of this past week,” Kenan Advantage wrote. “We have been informed of an incident involving one of our independent contractors in Minneapolis during recent protests. Our first and foremost concern is for the safety and security of the public, our employees and our customers.
“We will be cooperating fully with the investigating authorities in the days ahead. It would be inappropriate to comment at this time until we have additional facts as the investigation is in its early stages. We will comment further once we have more information.”
Doug Morris, OOIDA’s director of safety and security, advised truck drivers last week to avoid protest areas if at all possible.
If that’s not possible, Morris suggested for drivers to call local police beforehand and provide them with the address of pickup or delivery to see if they provide the safest route or any other assistance.
Morris advised truckers who enter a violent situation to keep their doors locked and windows rolled up. Retaliation should be a last resort, he said.
Land Line Now’s Terry Scruton contributed to this report.