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Truck driver who sped toward hundreds of Minneapolis protesters charged with 'threats of violence'


A petroleum tanker truck driver who sped into a crowd of more than 1,000 protesters on May 31 has been charged with one felony count of threats of violence and a gross misdemeanor count of criminal vehicular operation. 

Bogdan Vechirko, 35, claims he ‘panicked’ when he hurtled towards the demonstrators on the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota as they made their way from the US Bank Stadium.

But prosecutors argue the man from Otsego entered the bridge over the Mississippi River from the south at a ‘high rate of speed’ and wanted to scare people out of the way.

They point out that he didn’t stop driving until someone stumbled and fell in front of the vehicle.

Bogdan Vechirko, 35, who sped into a crowd of more than 1,000 protesters on May 31 has been charged with one felony count of threats of violence and a gross misdemeanor count of criminal vehicular operation

He is pictured after the incident

Bogdan Vechirko, 35, who sped into a crowd of more than 1,000 protesters on May 31 has been charged with one felony count of threats of violence and a gross misdemeanor count of criminal vehicular operation

The petroleum tanker truck driver claims he 'panicked' when he hurtled towards the demonstrators on the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota

The petroleum tanker truck driver claims he ‘panicked’ when he hurtled towards the demonstrators on the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Authorities looked at various videos that captured the incident and some show horrified demonstrators jumping off the bridge to escape injury. At least one woman suffered abrasions.

Investigators also found after a re-enactment that Vechirko’s ‘line of sight would have given him sufficient time to stop his truck after viewing the crowd,’ the Star Tribune reports.

Vechirko’s lawyer has argued that 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.’

Vechirko admitted to investigators that he was ‘kind of in a hurry’ and could have stopped sooner.  The driver was returning from dropping off fuel.

He told them that he thought if he drove slowly the protesters would let him pass.

Conversely, his lawyer argues he was ‘confronted with an unforeseeable emergency with thousands of people obstructing an open interstate.’ There were thousands more people elsewhere on the bridge at the time.

Prosecutors point out that he didn't stop driving until someone stumbled and fell in front of the vehicle

Prosecutors point out that he didn’t stop driving until someone stumbled and fell in front of the vehicle

Authorities looked at various videos that captured the incident and some show horrified demonstrators jumping off the bridge to escape. At least one woman suffered abrasions

Authorities looked at various videos that captured the incident and some show horrified demonstrators jumping off the bridge to escape. At least one woman suffered abrasions

A re-enactment that Vechirko's 'line of sight would have given him sufficient time to stop his truck after viewing the crowd'

A re-enactment that Vechirko’s ‘line of sight would have given him sufficient time to stop his truck after viewing the crowd’

The Minnesota Department of Transportation had begun to shut down the highways at 5pm and the incident took place just before 6pm. 

However they believe Vechirko was already on the highway and didn’t breach any barriers before the incident.

Still, a criminal complaint states that he should have known something was going on after he entered the Interstate 94 from the Hennepin/Lyndale ramp and continued eastbound before merging.

‘In addition to the large crowd, there were multiple vehicles stopped on I-35W northbound as the road approached the bridge,’ the complaint said about the opportunities Vechirko had to stop.

The document added that ‘a number of vehicles were driving the wrong-direction up an entrance ramp.’

After the truck came barreling towards the demonstrators, one pointed a gun at the driver and fires twice at his tires, according to Vechicko’s lawyer who references a social media video.

Vechirko was pulled from the truck and beaten up. 

Vechirko was pulled from the truck and beaten up. His lawyer claims someone pointed a gun at him and fired at his tires, vandalizing the vehicle

Vechirko was pulled from the truck and beaten up. His lawyer claims someone pointed a gun at him and fired at his tires, vandalizing the vehicle

People hold back fellow protesters from the driver of a tanker truck that drove into thousands of protesters marching on 35W north bound highway during a protest

People hold back fellow protesters from the driver of a tanker truck that drove into thousands of protesters marching on 35W north bound highway during a protest

He obtained cuts to his face and some items were stolen from his truck cab, according to his wife, who was asking for defense money via PayPal.

Some protesters and police intervened to stop the attack.

In June, after he was released from custody, it was announced no demonstrators would be charged for the attack against Vechirko.

‘The truck driver indicated to the BCA that he does not wish for charges to be filed against anyone for his injuries or damage sustained during the incident,’ Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) spokeswoman Jill Oliveira said at the time. 

A relative also previously told the Star Tribune: ‘He didn’t mean for it to happen. He didn’t have any intent to harm or do anything bad to anybody.’

Records cited by Insider reveal that in 2012, Vechirko was charged in Minnesota with misdemeanor domestic assault, disorderly conduct, and interfering with a 911 call.

He served a 30-day sentence at a work house after being convicted of the disorderly conduct charge. The other two counts were dismissed.

Vechirko’s most recent run-in with the law occurred in January of this year, when he was convicted of failing to display the registration number on a snowmobile.

He is due in court November 10.

Police are seen standing near Vechirko who said in June he doesn't want to pursue action against those who fought him

Police are seen standing near Vechirko who said in June he doesn’t want to pursue action against those who fought him

Some items were stolen from his truck cab, according to his wife who was asking for defense money via PayPal. He is due in court November 10

Some items were stolen from his truck cab, according to his wife who was asking for defense money via PayPal. He is due in court November 10

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