Driver Plows Into Protesters In Uptown; Woman Killed Identified As Deona Knajdek
MINNEAPOLIS (AP/WCCO) — A woman was killed and three others hurt after an SUV plowed into a group of protesters Sunday night in Uptown.
The Minneapolis Police Department said the suspect was pulled from his vehicle by protestors after the 11:39 p.m. crash and is now in custody and being treated for injuries at a hospital. An Instagram video shot by protesters shows the man being pulled from the SUV and held by protesters until officers arrived to take him into custody.
The man's motive was not immediately known. According to investigators, preliminary information suggests that drugs and alcohol could have played a role.
Hennepin County Jail roster records show that a 35-year-old St. Paul man was arrested early Monday in Minneapolis on suspicion of criminal vehicular homicide, driving after having his license suspended, and giving false information to police. The man does not have a valid license as a result of multiple DUI offenses.
Minneapolis police say they are not releasing the name of the driver, citing investigative purposes. WCCO-TV does not typically name suspects until they've been officially charged with a crime.
The Hennepin County Attorney's Office said Tuesday that an extension until noon Wednesday has been requested for charges against the driver.
The crash happened at the intersection of West Lake Street and Girard Avenue South. The SUV was travelling east on Lake Street when it slammed into a group of protesters. Emergency crews brought two injured protesters to Hennepin Healthcare for treatment. Two others later sought medical attention for non-life-threatening injuries at area hospitals.
A woman, who was critically injured in the crash, died from her injuries. Relatives identified her as 31-year-old Deona Knajdek.
Her brother said he saw video of the crash that showed the SUV slamming into Knajdek's car before hitting protesters. Knajdek was using her car to block the intersection to protect the protesters as they demonstrated.
Protester Ty Henderson says Knajdek was becoming a leader in the movement for justice. He says she was leading the game of "Red Light, Green Light" with the crowd when he witnessed the unthinkable.
"The only reason I saw it was because I heard the tires screech and the engine rev up. Like, I heard it and I'm like, 'What is that?' And I look up and all I see is headlights, and all I could think is, like, it's going faster," Henderson said. "We had to like dive out the way, and I like looked back and I saw it all."
Donald Hooker Jr., or DJ, was standing right next to Ty.
"The guy got out the car and he started running, and he was apprehended, and we kept him there until the police arrived a minute later," Hooker said.
He says when they tried to give the driver over to officers, they were met with aggression. He videotaped the interaction.
"Why did you come in guns blazing? Why did you come here and say you were going to Mace us? Why did you come in here and do all this extra stuff like we weren't already traumatized enough, like we didn't lose a member of our community?" Hooker said.
Both Henderson and Hooker believe Knajdek would have wanted more people to join the fight for justice. James McCaskel, a fellow activist, says her death is a painful one for him.
"It's always hurting when you see another fellow activist die behind the cause," McCaskel said. "She's white and I'm Black, and she's out here for the protection of me."
Garrett Knajdek said that his sister, who was a mother of two children, worked with people struggling with mental health issues and addiction. Wednesday would have marked her 32nd birthday.
"This last year, she finally started to blossom and be an adult," said Garrett Knajdek, in a phone interview with WCCO-TV. "She was doing good. She had two daughters that she was finally getting back in touch with ... building strength. This just ... took her away."
A march in Deona Knajdek's honor was held Monday evening in Minneapolis. Organizers say they will advocate for laws to protect protesters and harsh sentences for those who drive into them. "Deona Marie, you are a change agent," organizers wrote in a Facebook event post. "Rest in love and power!"
Early Monday morning, someone fired a gun near the scene of the crash in an apparent attempt to keep motorists away from the intersection. Police responded and arrested that person, who was also throwing objects at drivers. A handful of other people were also at the scene shortly after sunrise, trying to block the intersection from motorists on their morning commute.
Mayor Jacob Frey released this statement Monday afternoon about the deadly protest: "The right to peacefully assemble and protest is a cornerstone of our democracy. Last night's tragic events resulted in the loss of a community member exercising that fundamental right and the injury of several others. We are keeping the victim's family and friends close as they grieve the loss of a loved one. The driver has been arrested, and the City will share additional information as possible. Our team will remain in close contact with Chief Arradondo and staff regarding safety measures in Uptown moving forward."
There have been ongoing protests in Uptown after the June 3 shooting of Winston Boogie Smith Jr., a 32-year-old father of three.
Authorities have said Smith, a Black man who was wanted on a weapons violation, fired a gun before deputies fatally shot him in Minneapolis, a city on edge since George Floyd's death more than a year ago under an officer's knee, and the more recent fatal police shooting of Daunte Wright in a nearby suburb.
Members of the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force were trying to arrest Smith on a warrant for allegedly being a felon in possession of a gun, authorities said. The Marshals Service said in a statement that Smith, who was in a parked vehicle, didn't comply with law enforcement and "produced a handgun resulting in task force members firing upon the subject."
Smith died at the scene. State investigators said Smith's passenger, a 27-year-old woman, was treated for injuries from glass debris.
After Smith's shooting, some people vandalized buildings and stole from area businesses, police said. Nine people were arrested on possible charges including suspicion of riot, assault, arson and damage to property. Graffiti reading "Mpls still hates cops" and "No trial for them" marked the building next to the parking ramp where Smith was shot.
There has been tension between police and residents since the deaths of Floyd, a Black man who died last year after he was pinned to the ground by Minneapolis officers, and Wright, a Black motorist who was fatally shot in April by an officer in the nearby suburb of Brooklyn Center.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
for more features.