Man charged with murder in Uptown crash that killed Deona Knajdek | KSTP.com

Man charged with murder in Uptown crash that killed Deona Knajdek

Rebecca Omastiak
Updated: June 16, 2021 07:22 PM
Created: June 16, 2021 08:22 AM

The man accused of being behind the wheel of the SUV involved in an Uptown crash that killed a woman and hurt others was charged Wednesday with second-degree murder and two counts of second-degree assault using a dangerous weapon.

Nicholas D. Kraus, 35, was taken into custody earlier this week on probable cause vehicular homicide.

Kraus was suspected of driving a vehicle east on Lake Street Sunday night when the vehicle crashed into a group of protesters. There have been ongoing protests in the area since the shooting of Winston Smith earlier this month. A woman, identified as Deona Knajdek, died as a result of the crash, which also hurt three other people.

"This office is shocked by this level of violence in our streets," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said. "The defendant, Mr. Kraus, in the Uptown fatal incident in which he struck and killed a peaceful female protester while intoxicated, and injured additional protesters, is an extreme and violent intentional act. His behavior and admittance to intentionally driving towards the protesters is one important reason why we have charged him with intentional second-degree murder."

Freeman added there is no hard evidence this was a hate crime, as the investigation continues. He also said that surveillance footage is more than what was available in the US Marshal Task Force shooting of Smith earlier this month, yet still "at a minimum." 

A criminal complaint details the following:

Officers responded to the area of Lake Street and Girard Avenue after receiving a report of a vehicle hitting a group of protesters. When they arrived, they found a man, identified as Kraus, who was being held by people at the scene. Officers noted that Kraus appeared to be visibly intoxicated.

Officers saw a Jeep SUV with front-end damage in the middle of the street. It was later determined Kraus had been the driver of that vehicle. Two people who were hurt at the scene said they saw the SUV approaching the group of people when it hit another vehicle that was acting as a barricade on the street. That second vehicle was pushed into the group of protesters, the witnesses said.

Surveillance video showed the SUV crashing into the parked vehicle and sending it into the crowd of people. The video confirmed witness reports the SUV was accelerating at the time.

During an interview with authorities, Kraus said he had been driving a vehicle in Uptown at the time of the crash. He admitted he saw there was a group of people gathered and also admitted to accelerating "in order to try and jump the barricade." He admitted he thought he had hit another vehicle as well as another person or group of people while he was driving.

The results of a blood test from Kraus are pending.

Driving records indicate Kraus has multiple DWI convictions dating back to 2007.

Meanwhile,conflict between city leaders and protesters is ongoing after protesters replaced makeshift barriers removed by city crews.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey stated during a Tuesday news conference that any action "beyond a peaceful protest" along Lake Street could result in police issuing a dispersal order and that anyone who remains in the area risks being arrested.

Frey said the barriers on Lake Street pose a safety threat because of how busy the area is and because there are no clear markers indicating where people and drivers can go.

Frey did not give any specifics on a plan for preventing people from putting up barricades once crews take them down. 


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