Pine County woman charged after 2 kids nearly hit getting off school bus

A week after authorities in Pine County asked for the public’s help to identify the driver of a truck that nearly hit two children as they got off a school bus, criminal charges have been filed.

Brianna Constance Johnson, 28, of Willow River, is charged with failing to stop for a school bus and reckless driving.

Video released by the Pine County Sheriff’s Office shows the incident, which happened at around 3:22 p.m. on County Road 41 in Willow River on Dec. 21.

The clip shows two children walking across the roadway after getting off a school bus. That’s when a red 1994 Ford Ranger swerved around a white van that had stopped to allow the children to cross safely and drove past the bus, which had its stop arm out and blinking. Fortunately, the children were able to scamper to safety.

In an update on Tuesday, the sheriff’s office said the driver had been identified, and prosecutors formally charged Johnson late in the afternoon.

Charging documents state that the driver of the white van that the Ranger swerved around told law enforcement he tried to follow the Ranger but couldn’t keep up, even as he was going 70 mph. Authorities later found the Ford parked at a nearby home but when they talked to the property owners, they said the Ford showed up there while they were gone and they were going to have it towed.

The criminal complaint adds that law enforcement found lottery tickets inside the Ranger that were tracked back to a store in Sturgeon Lake, and tips from the public identified two other persons of interest.

The man who bought the lottery tickets told a deputy that he’d sold the Ford a couple of days before Dec. 21 to a man he’d never met. However, when surveillance video from a convenience store showed him driving the truck earlier that day, he said he was asked to fix the starter in Johnson’s truck that day. However, when he couldn’t fix it, Johnson asked if she could borrow his truck to go to Dollar General. She never returned.

Brianna Constance Johnson (Pine County Jail)

Investigators then noted that a recent booking photo of Johnson’s matched the description provided by a witness who saw the Ranger nearly hit the kids.

According to court documents, the man said he initially lied to the deputy over fear of retaliation.

As of Tuesday, law enforcement hadn’t been able to find Johnson, so she’s charged via warrant. Failing to stop for a school bus is a gross misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to 364 days in jail while reckless driving is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail.