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Truck I35w Protest Stephen Maturen

Minnesota trucker from I-35 Floyd protest charged with felony

Oct. 26, 2020
The trucker who drove through a crowd of protestors on the Minneapolis I-35W bridge during the George Floyd-related civil unrest has been charged for threats of violence and criminal vehicular operation.

The commercial truck driver who drove through a crowd gathered to protest the death of George Floyd on the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis, Minn. this past summer has been charged with felony-level threats of violence and criminal vehicular operation, a gross misdemeanor. The Hennepin County Attorney's office filed charges on Oct. 22 against driver Bogdan Vechirko, a 35-year-old trucker from Otsego, Minn.  The maximum sentence for the felony, formerly called “terroristic threats” under Minnesota law, is five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The misdemeanor carries a possible one-year sentence.

Vechirko, who was pulled from his cab and attacked by protestors after stopping, was released shortly after the incident while investigators gathered evidence to decide whether or not to charge the driver. The complaint stemming from the investigation alleges the driver had intent to scare the protestors into clearing a path for him. Vechirko also 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.

More than 1,000 protestors had taken over the I-35W Bridge near downtown Minneapolis in the aftermath of George Floyd's death while in police custody, with video appearing to show an officer’s knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes. Police closed I-35 onramps, though Vechirko’s tanker truck was able to access Interstate-94 at an unbarricaded onramp after making a fuel delivery on the city’s south side, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation video.

He narrowly avoided hitting the crowd before coming to a stop. Some protestors pulled him from the cab before others intervened and handed him over to authorities. One protestor suffered leg abrasions during the near-miss event.

Investigators gathered video evidence and performed a re-enactment with a similar truck and concluded Vechirko’s “line of sight would have given him sufficient time to stop his truck after viewing the crowd.” The complaint also noted “[t]he videos show that the defendant did not stop his vehicle but continued into the area of the crowd at a high rate of speed.

According the Star Tribune, Vechirko’s attorney, Mark Solheim, said his client “relied on his professional instinct and training to avoid a hard brake that could have jackknifed the truck and could have seriously injured or killed thousands of people, and instead slowed his vehicle while maneuvering through the parted crowd.”

No protestors were charged for attacking Vechirko, whose personal belongings such as his phone and wallet were taken, his wife reported to the Star Tribune.

Solheim believes his client, who is not in custody, acted in defense of his safety and that of his truck.

“The social media videos make clear that Mr. Vechirko was faced with a terrifying situation, yet still made efforts to safely remove himself and his tanker from the situation without catastrophic injuries or death,” he said.

Vechirko is set to appear in court on Nov. 10.

About the Author

John Hitch | Editor

John Hitch, based out of Cleveland, Ohio, is the editor of Fleet Maintenance, a B2B magazine that addresses the service needs for all commercial vehicle makes and models (Classes 1-8), ranging from shop management strategies to the latest tools to enhance uptime.

He previously wrote about equipment and fleet operations and management for FleetOwner, and prior to that, manufacturing and advanced technology for IndustryWeek and New Equipment Digest. He is an award-winning journalist and former sonar technician aboard a nuclear-powered submarine.

For tips, questions or comments, email [email protected].

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