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Minnesota authorities: Tanker driver who drove into I-35 crowd did not intentionally try to ‘intersect the protest’ and has been released from custody

Minnesota authorities: Tanker driver who drove into I-35 crowd did not intentionally try to ‘intersect the protest’ and has been released from custody
The Minnesota authorities are now saying that the driver of a tanker truck who drove into thousands of protesters in I-35 did not do so intentionally. TV footage from local news sources show protesters swarming the truck, and then law enforcement quickly moving in. (Courtesy of FOX9 KMSP)

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota authorities said Tuesday, June 2, that the driver of a tanker truck who drove into a group of thousands of protesters on Interstate 35 West in Minneapolis on Sunday, May 31, did not do so intentionally. Public jail records also indicate that he has now been released from police custody.

The driver, who has been identified as 35-year-old Bogdan Vechirko according to public records, was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries and then arrested for suspicion of assault, according to Minnesota authorities. TV footage from local news sources show protesters swarming the truck and then law enforcement quickly moving in. Other TV footage shows the tanker truck moving rapidly onto the bridge as protesters appear to part ahead of it.

The Star Tribune, a news outlet in Minneapolis, reported that Vechirko left the jail midday on Tuesday, June 2. The Hennepin County Jail roster indicates that Vechirko was released after the 36-hour “detainment without charges” time frame had expired.

Mugshot of Bogdan Vechirko
Mugshot Bogdan Vechirko (Courtesy of Hennepin County Jail)

Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said in a news conference Monday, June 1, and via Twitter that the department does not have “any information that makes this seem like this was an intentional act.”

Harrington said initially the freeways near Minneapolis were set to close at 8 p.m., but as the group holding a peaceful protest at U.S. Bank Stadium began moving toward the freeway, the Minnesota Department of Transportation was asked to shut down the freeways and entrance ramps ahead of time. The driver was already on the freeway, according to footage from traffic cameras. The driver was on Highway 94 and turned onto Interstate 35 before access was blocked, Harrington said.

“We know that this was his second run of the day. He was running empty; there was no fuel in that tanker truck,” Harrington said. “From what we understand, he was speeding.”

Harrington estimates that Bogdan was going about 70 mph.

Harrington said the department has information that leads them to believe that when Bogdan saw the crowd, he panicked and kept barreling forward. According to Harrington, Bogdan said he saw a young woman on a bike fall in front of him, and he slammed on the brakes. The truck then slid until it came to a stop.

“From what we can tell in our interviews, we have not had any information — and it is a little bit of an investigation — we don’t have any information that makes this seem like it was an intentional act,” Harrington said. “It wasn’t that he went around the barricades to get to the protest. He knew the protest was going on, but it doesn’t appear that he was driving to intersect the protest.”

There has been no mention from Minnesota authorities of charges being pursued at this time.

“We had shut down the freeway because we wanted to keep these protesters safe,” Harrington said in a news conference earlier in the day on Monday, June 1. “We have recognized that having people on the freeway is a hazardous, hazardous place for them to be. So, one of the things that we have learned over the years is that by shutting down the freeway, we put them in a place where it will be safe, or at least safer to get them to move as they demonstrate and have it done in a safe way.”

On Monday afternoon, the Minnesota DPS tweeted a message from Minnesota State Patrol Col. Matt Langer, stating, “The freeway is a very dangerous place to be when you are protesting. The freeway is just not the place to do it.”

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said during the earlier Monday press conference that “to not have a tragedy and many deaths is an amazing thing,” referring to the incident with the tanker.

Harrington said he estimates there were between 5,000 and 7,000 protesters participating in the event that spilled onto the interstate at the time of the tanker’s arrival. Gov. Walz noted that Bogdan has stated that the vast majority of protesters protected him once he was pulled from the cab of the truck until police could get to the scene to take him into custody. Walz said he feels “that speaks volumes.”

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety said in a tweet at the time of the incident that the action appeared deliberate and that the actions of the truck driver were “very disturbing,” and said those actions were “inciting a crowd of peaceful demonstrators.” Officials have now confirmed that there is no evidence to support that claim.

The protesters were demonstrating against the death of George Floyd. Protests and demonstrations are ongoing throughout the county.

The Trucker first reported on this incident on Sunday, May 31. To view the original story, which includes local news footage of the incident, click here.

Wendy Miller is the managing editor of The Trucker Newspaper and TheTrucker.com. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and a master's degree in strategic communications. Wendy has been a journalist and editor for 12 years and has specialized in niche publications for the past eight years. Wendy draws her love for the trucking industry from growing up as a trucker's daughter.
For over 30 years, the objective of The Trucker editorial team has been to produce content focused on truck drivers that is relevant, objective and engaging. After reading this article, feel free to leave a comment about this article or the topics covered in this article for the author or the other readers to enjoy. Let them know what you think! We always enjoy hearing from our readers.

4 Comments

I am confused about something here one of those statements made in this article. This type of right here and I copied and pasted it so it was an exact quote
“the actions of the truck driver were “very disturbing,” and said those actions were “inciting a crowd of peaceful demonstrators.” wasn’t Minneapolis where they sit their own shops on fire and threw bricks and hurt people but this is called a peaceful demonstrator? I’m just going to leave that right here and go about my business.

If the safety of protesters was your priority then why would you let them on the interstate. If the truckers were to protest on the interstate by shutting it down we’d be arrested for stopping the flow of commerce.

To respond to hensley, this protest was entirely peaceful until this truck incident. I was there. We had knelt for 9 minutes in silence prior to this. Not every protest is connected to the looting that happened elsewhere.

JW – obstructing traffic is not peaceful. It is illegal, stupid and dangerous. Even *Seattle* (arguably an even dumber and more woke-addled city) eventually had to start enforcing interstate pedestrian laws after a couple of protesters were hit, one killed. (as in this case, driver was an immigrant. Probably took us at our word that US was logical country).

Some people said the truck driver went around barricade on closed ramp. Not true – police were not able to safely close all ramps in time, due to unplanned (idiotic) nature of closing. Normally closing interstate is planned in advance and follows strict safety procedures, and only trained crew allowed. In this case a mob of idiots (redundant – mobs are almost always stupid) spontaneously decided to go on interstate.

The peaceful protest beat this guy up pretty bad, I’d hate to see a violent protest.

Which brings me to my last point: google “Reginald Denny”. He was an innocent truck driver just out there doing his job, but he had the bad luck of being white driving during LA riots. He stopped his truck and was pulled out and nearly killer (permanently disabled) when a peaceful protester caved his head in with a cinder block. Also see Adam Haner in Portland. Stopping for a mob you never know.

As it is nobody was hurt, well one person got abrasions from jumping out of the way. Contrast that with driver who was beaten up pretty badly.

This is a politically motivated prosecution. The mob wants to terrorize us and gets really mad at any defense. The state re-enacted this incident – how much did that cost?

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