Trucker who drove into protesters on I-35W charged with felony threat
October 22, 2020
•Land Line Staff
A Minnesota trucker faces one felony count of threats of violence and a gross misdemeanor count of criminal vehicle operation after nearly running into a crowd of protesters on Interstate 35W this summer.
Bogdan Vechirko, 35, of Otsego, Minn., was charged by summons on Thursday, Oct. 22, and is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Nov. 10, according to a news release from Hennepin County District Attorney Mike Freeman.
Vechirko was driving a tanker for Canton, Ohio-based Kenan Advantage on Sunday, May 31, when he had a dramatic encounter with about 1,000 protesters who shut down the interstate bridge to protest the death of George Floyd.
According to the complaint, Vechirko’s 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. No one was injured by the vehicle, but one woman did tell investigators she suffered minor injuries to her leg while attempting to flee from the oncoming truck.
Video footage showed Vechirko’s tractor coming dangerously close to the protesters before stopping. He was pulled from the cab and beaten. He was briefly jailed and released pending the conclusion of the investigation.
In addition to traffic cameras, officers collected a number of cellphone videos that captured portions of the incident, according to Special Agent Jakob Hodapp of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
Citing evidence they collected from a reenactment of the scene and statements Vechirko reportedly made to police, investigators say the driver “wanted to scare the crowd out of his path.”
“The videos show that the defendant did not stop his vehicle but continued into the area of the crowd at a high rate of speed,” Hodapp wrote in the complaint. “Various collected videos show that in addition to the large crowd, there were multiple vehicles stopped on I-35W northbound as the road approached the bridge and that a number of vehicles were driving the wrong direction up an entrance ramp to the freeway; all indicators that something was occurring up ahead.”
The complaint also states that investigators “obtained and used a similar semi-truck in order to drive the road in question, and that footage from the reenactment “shows that the defendant’s line of sight would have given him sufficient time to stop his truck after viewing the crowd.” LL