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Trucker arrested after driving toward protesters on Minneapolis interstate released from jail

Semi-truck appears to drive into protesters
Semi-truck appears to try to drive through protesters on Minneapolis interstate 12:36

A truck driver who was arrested after he drove toward thousands of peaceful protesters on a Minneapolis interstate has been released from jail, according to authorities. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said the case against Bogdan Vechirko, 35, has been "deferred pending further investigation."

"Investigators are in the process of gathering additional information and answers to aid in the charging decision," Freeman said in a statement. He did not provide further information.

Footage from Sunday showed a tanker truck approaching a throng of people at 70 mph, according to Minnesota Department of Safety Commissioner John Harrington, as protesters frantically tried to avoid being hit. The truck slowly stopped and was then surrounded by protesters who pulled open the driver and passenger doors. Minnesota state police said there were no injuries. CBS Minnesota said some 5,000 protesters were on the interstate at the time.

"Very disturbing actions by a truck driver on I-35W, inciting a crowd of peaceful demonstrators," the Minnesota Department of Public Safety said in a tweet Sunday announcing Vechirko's arrest.

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said Vechirko told investigators he is grateful no one was hurt, and that the driver was lucky Minnesotans "showed their better angels" on that bridge Sunday.

Harrington said in a press conference Tuesday that he will work with the county attorney to determine the correct charges to be filed against Vechirko. The driver was originally charged with criminal assault in the second degree.

Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) on Tuesday released video leading up to the incident. They were in the process of closing the interstate and the on-ramp used by the trucker hadn't been closed off yet, according to MnDOT.

May 31, 2020 - MnDOT traffic camera footage; truck and 35W bridge protest by Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) on YouTube

The crowd was part of a protest group marching against the death of George Floyd, and demonstrators had taken position to take a knee on the bridge, CBS Minnesota reports. It had been a relatively peaceful protest up until the point the truck appeared.

CBS Minnesota video footage also showed people climb atop the cab of the truck after it had stopped. Police intervened minutes later and could be seen dispersing the crowd with an aerosol liquid.

Tanker truck drives into protesters on bridge
A tanker truck drives into thousands of protesters marching on 35W north bound highway during a protest against the death of George Floyd, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Sunday, May 31, 2020. Reuters

Kenan Advantage Group, the trucking company Vechirko works for, issued a statement Sunday night saying they would cooperate fully with authorities in the coming days:

"Our hearts go out to all those who are grieving the events of this past week. We have been informed of an incident involving one of our independent contractors in Minneapolis, Minnesota, during recent protests. Our first and foremost concern is for the safety and security of the public, our employees and our customers. We will be cooperating fully with the investigating authorities in the days ahead. It would be inappropriate to comment at this time until we have additional facts as the investigation is in its early stages. We will comment further once we have more information."

There have days of protests in Minneapolis since the death of Floyd, who was captured on video pleading for air as a police officer kneeled on his neck for several minutes while he was handcuffed. Four Minneapolis officers have been fired and one, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

Protests have spread across the state and country, with some turning violent. For the first time since World War II, the National Guard was fully activated over the weekend in response to the violence and a curfew was placed on the Twin Cities.

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