Charlie Wiese and Jay Kolls
Updated: October 22, 2020 10:25 PM
Created: October 22, 2020 09:37 AM
The truck driver who drove through a protest on the I-35W bridge in May has been charged with a felony and gross misdemeanor.
According to court documents, 35-year-old Bogdan Vechirko has been charged with threats of violence - reckless disregard risk, a felony, and criminal vehicular operation, a gross misdemeanor.
Vechirko's attorney, Kevin DeVore, told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the charges against his client were unjust and said the evidence presented in the case so far does not rise to the level of the stronger felony charge.
“He (Vechirko) was just doing his job that day and had no intention of harming anyone,” DeVore said. “Then, all of a sudden, he is charged with a felony, and based on the evidence I have seen so far, it seems to be far-reaching and very disappointing.”
In a release, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman stated that the investigation into the incident showed that Vechirko wanted to scare people out of his path.
During the investigation, a similar truck used to reconstruct the suspect's drive showed, during a re-enactment, that Vechirko's line of sight would have provided him sufficient time to see the crowd and stop his truck well short of them, according to the complaint.
In addition, the complaint goes on to say that there were multiple vehicles stopped on I-35W northbound as the road approached the bridge and a number of vehicles were driving the wrong way up an entrance ramp to the freeway; all would be indicators that something was occurring up ahead.
In a statement following the incident, Vechirko states 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 pass.
DeVore told KSTP his client had no intent “to harm, or threaten anyone” on the day of the incident and actually had done an extra route to drop off a load of fuel to a south Minneapolis gas station because no other tanker truck would travel into the neighborhood because of the ongoing looting.
“Vechirko was actually doing a good deed and came to the assistance of a small business owner who needed gasoline that day,” said DeVore. “He did not drive around, or through, any barricades and had no idea the freeways were closed or that he would encounter hundreds of protesters on his final route.
At least one protester suffered scrapes and abrasions. Vechirko was also injured during the incident.
Vechirko's first court appearance is scheduled for Nov. 19.
The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office declined KSTP’s request for an interview.
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