The drunk driver who smashed a sport utility vehicle into a crowd of protesters in Minneapolis on Sunday night, killing a woman and injuring several others, was charged Wednesday with intentional second degree murder, authorities said.
Protesters were protesting the death of Winston Smith, a black man who was shot and killed by members of a federal law enforcement task force this month, when officials said driver Nicholas Kraus , ran into them in a Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Mr. Kraus, 35, of St. Paul, Minnesota, was intoxicated at the time and was driving on a suspended license, according to the Hennepin County District Attorney’s Office, which said he had been convicted repeatedly for impaired driving. alcohol.
Protesters pulled Mr. Kraus out of the vehicle and some of them started hitting him, the Minneapolis Police Department said.
Michael O. Freeman, the Hennepin County attorney, told a press conference on Wednesday that there was clear evidence Mr. Kraus had intentionally walked into the crowd.
“He said he saw the cars, the barricades and the people,” Freeman said. “And at that point, he intentionally accelerated and headed straight for them. He later said that he may have hit one or two people while driving his vehicle.
Authorities said Mr. Kraus told investigators he wanted to go through the barricade. They said there was no indication that he was politically motivated or out of antipathy towards protesters.
The attack on protesters has exacerbated unrest in Minneapolis, which began last year after the murder of George Floyd while in custody and continued this year with the trial of former policeman Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of murdering Mr. Floyd.
It was not immediately clear whether Mr Kraus, who is due in court on Thursday, had a lawyer. He was also charged with two counts of second degree assault with a dangerous weapon, according to a criminal complaint.
The woman who was killed in the episode was identified by the Hennepin County medical examiner on Wednesday as Deona Marie Erickson, 31. She was also called Deona Marie Knajdek and was known for her activism for social justice.
She had two children and was a program manager for Cottages Group, a provider of residential services for vulnerable adults in the Twin Cities area.
“She was one of the most selfless people we have had the pleasure of knowing, she earned the respect and trust of those she served because of her genuine compassion for her job,” her employer said Monday. in an article on Facebook.
Ms Erickson’s relatives told local media she would have turned 32 this week and is drawn to the cause of social justice.
“I knew she was going to use her voice for this,” Ms. Erickson’s mother Deb Kenney told WCCO television. “And I’m proud of her for doing it.”
The episode, which occurred shortly before 11:40 p.m. Sunday on West Lake Street and Girard Avenue South, sparked outrage from crowds who had gathered to protest police brutality and commemorate Mr. Smith. He was shot dead by members of a fleeing task force who were trying to stop him.
“I have never seen anything so horrible,” Zachery James, 28, said from the scene, where several members of the crowd were still gathered hours later.
Mr James said protesters blocked off an area of the road, using their own cars, and that he and around 40 to 50 people had “peacefully occupied” when he first heard a vehicle heading towards the group at high speed. He said he crashed into one of the protesters’ parked cars, which struck a woman, sending her flying several meters into a pole.
Mr. James described Ms. Erickson as “an uplifting, kind and beautiful spirit” who was always curious and considerate of others. He said she recently joined the Black Lives Matter movement in Minneapolis.
“She was right there for us and with us,” he said. “I watched his body fly.”