A tanker truck driver who drove toward a group of peaceful protesters on a Minneapolis interstate in May was charged with a felony on Thursday. Bogdan Vechirko, 35, faces a felony charge of threats of violence and a gross misdemeanor charge of criminal vehicular operation, according to a press release from the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office.
“The thorough investigation showed that Vechirko wanted to scare people out of his path,” the release said. Dramatic video captured May 31 showed Vechirko driving quickly on the Interstate 35W Bridge as he approached up to 6,000 people protesting the death of George Floyd. Officials said he hit a speed of 70 mph.
Officials stated in their criminal complaint that Vechirko’s line of sight would have given him enough time to stop his tanker after he saw the crowd of protesters. The complaint also noted that investigators had obtained the semi truck and tested it in the same conditions and concluded that there was adequate time to stop.
“Investigators reviewed traffic cameras and a number of cellphone videos, all of which showed protesters screaming and running in a panic from the truck,” the attorney’s office said.
The complaint said investigators spoke to multiple people who were at the protest and they thought they were going to be hit or die.
“At least one individual, A.W., suffered injuries as a result of her attempts to get out of the way of the truck,” the complaint stated. “A.W. reported that she fell and suffered scrapes and abrasions to her leg.” No major injuries were reported.
If Vechirko is convicted, he could face up to five years in prison on the felony charge and up to one year in prison on the gross misdemeanor charge. The driver was released from jail in June.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation released video leading up to the incident. The department was in the process of closing the interstate that day, and the on-ramp used by the trucker hadn’t been closed off yet, the department said at the time.