A tanker truck driver who scattered protesters marching on a Minneapolis bridge to protest the death of George Floyd was arrested and taken into custody, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety said Sunday.
Update 3:05 p.m. EDT June 2: Bogdan Vechirko was released from jail Tuesday, according to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office.
Officials said the case against Vechirko has been deferred pending further investigation, KSTP reported.
At a news conference Monday, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said it did not appear Vechirko intentionally drove on the highway or tried to cause injuries.
Original report: Floyd, 46, a black man, died May 25 after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes. Floyd’s death has sparked protests and violence in cities nationwide.
John Harrington, the commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, said it appeared that none of the protesters on the Interstate 35 West bridge were injured, WCCO reported. Harrington estimated that between 5,000 and 6,000 people were on the bridge at the time the tanker Vechirko was driving sped through the interstate.
“It was one of the most dangerous things I’ve ever seen,” Harrington told the television station.
Harrington said the highway had been closed about 40 minutes and barriers were in place to protect the marchers. State officials said Vechirko may not have realized the road had been closed, the Star-Tribune reported.
Dozens of marchers were sitting or had taken a knee on the bridge, which spans the Mississippi River, when Vechirko sped over the span, the newspaper reported. Demonstrators swarmed the truck and appeared to drag Vechirko out of the cab.
“He wasn’t stopping. He was beeping loudly and driving into a crowd of people,” Drew Valle, a special education high school teacher in Minneapolis, told the Star-Tribune. “That’s the same kind of malice that brought us here. It’s a callous disregard for someone’s humanity.”
“A truck came. The horns were blaring," Minneapolis resident Melanie Ramos told the newspaper. "It was picking up speed. It was plowing down the highway into the protesters. It was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen.”
Minneapolis police took Vechirko, who was injured, into custody, the Star-Tribune reported.
“Our first and foremost concern is for the safety and security of the public, our employees and our customers," the company said in a statement. “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.”
The Minneapolis marchers were part of a “No Bail” march, which began at the U.S. Bank Stadium, WCCO reported.
At a Sunday evening news conference, Gov. Tim Walz called footage of the truck driving into the crowd “horrifying.".
“I don’t know the motives of the driver at this point in time,” Walz told reporters. “But at this point in time to not have tragedy and many deaths is an amazing thing.”
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