The semi-truck driver who caused a major scare as he drove toward George Floyd protesters on the Interstate 35W bridge in May has been charged with a felony.
Bogdan Vechirko, 35, of Otsego, is charged with felony threats of violence and a gross misdemeanor for criminal vehicular operation, which follows a months-long investigation by police and the Hennepin County Attorney's Office.
On May 31, a large crowd of protesters gathered on the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis while the interstate was shut down due to the ongoing unrest. Video then showed a tanker truck driven by Vechirko – who had apparently been able to get onto the freeway as the shutdown began – hurtling toward the crowd before slowing to a stop.
Despite initially being arrested at the scene, Vechirko was released without charges, with family and friends coming to his defense, saying the incident was unintentional.
However, the Hennepin County Attorney's Office says it has reconstructed the incident and believes it's able to prove that Vechirko "wanted to scare people out of his path."
The criminal complaint says the truck was "failing to stop for the crowd" and only slowed down when someone stumbled and fell while in its path.
Per the complaint:
"In addition to traffic cameras, officers collected a number of cell phone videos that captured portions of the incident. Protestors can be seen screaming and fleeing the bridge in a panic, in order to avoid being struck by the vehicle. 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.
"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. Investigators obtained and used a similar semi-truck in order to drive the road in question.
"The reenactment was video recorded. The video shows that the defendant’s line of sight would have given him sufficient time to stop his truck after viewing the crowd."
Investigators also spoke with protesters who said they thought they were going to be struck or killed, with one sustaining minor injuries as she tried to get out of the way.
The complaint says that during the interview, Vechirko "admitted that he was kind of in a hurry," and that when he saw the crowd, "he hoped that if he went slow the crowd would let him past."
"The defendant acknowledged that he saw cars pulling off to the right of the highway as he approached," the complaint says. "The defendant acknowledged that he could have stopped the truck sooner."