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Semi trucker who rolled into protesters on Minneapolis bridge released without charges

Minneapolis rally and march to support the people of Baltimore (Fibonacci Blue/Flickr)

The truck driver who drove onto the 35W Bridge and narrowly missed hitting protesters over the weekend was released from jail without any criminal charges.

Bogdan Vechirko, 35, of Otsego, Minn., left the Hennepin County jail at midday after being held since Sunday evening on suspicion of assault after he rolled his empty fuel tanker into a crowd marching to protest the death of George Floyd on May 25 while being detained by Minneapolis police.

The County Attorney’s Office said it had until noon Tuesday to charge Vechirko or release him. Prosecutors did not say whether they charging Vechirko remains an option.

 

Earlier Tuesday, a relative of Vechirko’s said that the harrowing incident was unintentional.

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Art Loghinov said he has spoken with Bogdan Vechirko since Sunday’s near-deadly sequence of events and is convinced that the incident on the bridge was “not his fault. … He didn’t mean for it to happen. He didn’t have any intent to harm or do anything bad to anybody.”

State Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said Monday that the driver “panicked, and he just kept barreling forward” but did not breach any barriers put up to protect the protesters and was not aiming for anyone.

Several among those on the bridge disputed that, including Drew Valle, who said the driver showed “a callous disregard for someone’s humanity.”

 

Loghinov and others in the family commissioned a 45-second video that features Vechirko’s wife appealing for financial help on behalf of the Otsego couple. Liudmila Vechirko, who is eight months’ pregnant, says in Russian as subtitles roll below, “Due to multiple requests, I am recording this video for those who care and want to help our family.” She then holds up a piece of paper with an address for a PayPal fundraising account.

Liudmila Vechirko adds that “our credit cards are frozen since they stole his wallet, phone and all the belongings in the truck’s cabin. I am very thankful for all your open hearts.”

A relative of the couple from Otsego said Tuesday that Bogdan Vechirko and others had the video produced and posted on social media. Loghinov also said the family is “very thankful for the people who came to rescue him and very grateful for the police” who fended of some of the marchers who began attacking Bogdan Vechirko after his truck came to a stop halfway across the bridge.

The couple’s financial situation is under pressure from Bogdan Vechirko missing work, his wife being eight months pregnant and the potential for legal bills in connection with the incident, Loghinov said.

“They are not a rich family,” Loghinov said. “He is a hard worker and the only one bringing money to the family.

Loghinov said Bogdan Vechirko came to the United States from Russia when he was 4 years old and met Liudmila in Minnesota.

“He’s a nice, friendly guy,” Loghinov said. “He was just going home.”

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© 2020 the Star Tribune