A truck driver who drove a tanker into a group of George Floyd protesters will have all charges dropped over the incident if he stays on the right side of the law for one year.
Bogdan Vechirko, 36, was charged with one felony count of threats of violence and a gross misdemeanor count of criminal vehicular operation over the incident on the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota, back on May 31 2020.
Vechirko, from Otsego, sped into the crowd of up to 6,000 protesters as they marched from the US Bank Stadium demanding justice over the murder of Floyd six days earlier.
Both charges will now be dropped if he meets the conditions of a restorative justice program.
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A driver who drove a tanker into a group of George Floyd protesters will have all charges dropped if he stays on the right side of the law for one year. Bogdan Vechirko in mug
Vechirko was charged with one felony count of threats of violence and a gross misdemeanor count of criminal vehicular operation over the incident on the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota, back on May 31 2020 (incident above)
Vechirko appeared in court Friday where he entered into a ‘continuance without prosecution’ agreement with Hennepin County prosecutors.
Under the agreement – which is different to a plea deal – the 36-year-old’s charges will be dismissed in one year if he meets the terms of his restorative justice program.
These terms include him attending three sentencing circles, paying an unspecified amount of restitution and staying out of trouble with the law.
Vechirko’s defense said the suspect had already been to two sentencing circles and will complete the third within a month.
If convicted on the two charges, he could have faced up to five years in prison for the felony and up to one year for the gross misdemeanor.
Officials said around 5,000 to 6,000 people were on the bridge when Vechirko drove his rig through the crowd of protesters on the bridge last May.
Vechirko previously claimed he had ‘panicked’ when he was ‘confronted with an unforeseeable emergency with thousands of people obstructing an open interstate.’
His lawyer claimed he had ‘relied on his professional instinct and training to avoid a hard brake that could have jackknifed the truck and could have seriously injured or killed thousands of people, and instead slowed his vehicle while maneuvering through the parted crowd.’
But prosecutors said he entered the bridge over the Mississippi River from the south at a ‘high rate of speed’ and wanted to scare people out of the way.
They said he didn’t stop driving until someone stumbled and fell in front of the vehicle, forcing him to stop.
Prosecutors pointed out that he didn’t stop driving until someone stumbled and fell in front of the vehicle
Around 6,000 protesters were marching on the bridge at the time Vechirko drove through
At least one woman was injured in the alleged attack, suffering scrapes and abrasions to their legs.
Authorities looked at various videos that captured the incident and some show horrified demonstrators jumping off the bridge to escape injury.
Investigators also found after a re-enactment that Vechirko’s ‘line of sight would have given him sufficient time to stop his truck after viewing the crowd.’
They also tested the vehicle and found there had been time for it to stop in those conditions.
Vechirko admitted to investigators that he was ‘kind of in a hurry’ and could have stopped sooner. The driver was returning from dropping off fuel.
He told them that he thought if he drove slowly the protesters would let him pass.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation had begun to shut down the highways at 5pm and the incident took place just before 6pm.
Vechirko was pulled from the truck by protesters. He appeared in court Friday where prosecutors agreed to drop the charges if he meets the conditions of a restorative justice program
People hold back fellow protesters from the driver of a tanker truck that drove into thousands of protesters marching on 35W north bound highway during a protest
However they believe Vechirko was already on the highway and didn’t breach any barriers before the incident.
After the truck came barreling towards the demonstrators, one person allegedly pointed a gun at the driver and fired twice at his tires.
Vechirko was pulled from the truck and beaten up.
He said he obtained cuts to his face and some items were stolen from his truck cab.
Some protesters and police intervened to stop the attack.
No demonstrators were charged for the attack against Vechirko.
Vechirko has had several other brushes with the law.
In 2012, Vechirko was charged in Minnesota with misdemeanor domestic assault, disorderly conduct, and interfering with a 911 call.
He served a 30-day sentence at a work house after being convicted of the disorderly conduct charge. The other two counts were dismissed.
In early 2020, Vechirko was convicted of failing to display the registration number on a snowmobile.
Police are seen standing near Vechirko following the incident last May in Minneapolis