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Driver Hits Minneapolis Protesters, Killing 31-Year-Old Woman and Injuring Others
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=59779"><span class="small">Paul Walsh and John Reinan, The Star Tribune</span></a>   
Monday, 14 June 2021 13:29

Excerpt: "A man drove into a group of protesters, killing one woman and injuring others at an Uptown Minneapolis intersection late Sunday."

'Police have yet to determine a motive for the driver's actions.' (photo: NBC)
'Police have yet to determine a motive for the driver's actions.' (photo: NBC)

Driver Hits Minneapolis Protesters, Killing 31-Year-Old Woman and Injuring Others

By Paul Walsh and John Reinan, The Star Tribune

14 June 21

Brother identifies the woman who was killed.

man drove into a group of protesters, killing one woman and injuring others at an Uptown Minneapolis intersection late Sunday.

The incident occurred about 11:40 p.m. at W. Lake Street and S. Girard Avenue, near where Winston Boogie Smith Jr. was fatally shot by law enforcement on June 3 during an attempt by a U.S. Marshals Service task force to arrest him in a parking ramp.

The woman died after being taken by ambulance to HCMC. A second protester also was struck by the vehicle and taken by ambulance to HCMC. Two more people from the incident later sought medical attention at nearby hospitals, said police spokesman John Elder.

The driver was hospitalized for treatment of injuries after some of the protesters "began to strike" him, Elder said. Conditions of the injured protesters and the driver were not immediately known.

Police have yet to determine a motive for the driver's actions, however, "the use of drugs or alcohol ... may be a contributing factor in this crash," Elder said.

The identity of the driver is being withheld by police. The names of the injured also have yet to be released.

Garrett Knajdek said his sister, Deona M. Knajdek, of Minneapolis, was the protester who was killed. She was to have celebrated her 32nd birthday on Wednesday.

"She was using her car as a street blockade, and another vehicle struck her vehicle and her vehicle struck her," the 29-year-old brother said, who learned the details from police and his mother.

He said his sister, a mother to daughters ages 11 and 13, was active about many issues surrounding justice.

"She constantly sacrificing herself for everyone around her," he said, "no matter the cost, obviously."

Deona Knajdek's Facebook page as recently as Sunday showed videos of a peaceful scene at the intersection, where people sat and chatted. An additional post read: "If we don't get it, shut it down!!!"

Jill MacPhee, who lives in the Walkway apartment across the street, said, "I heard this big thump and a crash," she said. When she came outside, she saw the injured woman lying on the sidewalk on the southeast corner of the intersection.

Well after daybreak Monday, the scene was largely quiet. A streetlight pole, torn from its base, laid alongside the sidewalk, dangling wires still connected to the shattered base. Nearby, jagged pieces of a car's front end, including an entire headlight, we're piled along a fence.

Video posted on social media from the scene overnight showed a man being hustled down the sidewalk by one man as another yelled, "You're going to jail! You're going to jail!"

The man was walked over to police by one protester as others raised their arms and chanted, "Hands up!"

"I didn't mean to," the man can be heard saying on one of the postings. Another showed the distraught crowd directing police to the scene as others tended to the gravely injured Knajdek.

Another protester posted on social media that the woman was sitting down when she was run over.

Several of the witnesses turned their distress toward police officers as they had their pepper spray at the ready while securing the scene ahead of an ambulance arriving.

Barely 12 hours after the mayhem, Mayor Jacob Frey said late Monday morning that police are being reinforced with "some substantial resources that are coming in from a number of different jurisdictional partners," including the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office and federal agencies.

City officials announced last month that they were seeking help as they try to temper a wave of violence that included a mass shooting downtown and the shootings of three young children, two of whom died, in the span of just a couple weeks. "It's too early to tell how many of those assisting officers will be focused on Uptown vs. other areas of the city," Frey said.

The mayor also pointed out that "the right to peacefully assemble is a cornerstone of our democracy and, simultaneously, these businesses that have suffered a number of difficulties in this last year have the right to reopen and have access to their customers. So, that difficult scenario is what we are continuing to navigate right now."

The mayor said city officials "have received word" that there will likely be a vigil or protest at the crash site Monday night. "We'll make sure to have both the right outreach staff from our Office of Violence Prevention on hand as well as law enforcement," Frey said.

Councilmember Lisa Bender, whose ward includes Uptown, said in e-mail to the community Monday morning, "I woke up to the very troubling news that a person was killed in Uptown last night, when a driver crashed into people gathered in protest. Any death in our city is a tragedy, and as we wait for more information, I hope we can all come together to support the victim's family and friends who have suffered this sudden loss of life."

Bender said that based on what police have so far disclosed, "it does not seem possible at this time to say if the crash was accidental or intentional. MPD is investigating. ... This stretch of road, like many in our community, is one of the highest crash corridors."

The deadly crash comes a little over a year after Bogdan Vechirko drove a semitrailer truck onto the Interstate 35W bridge during a massive protest following the killing of George Floyd. Hundreds of protesters scrambled for cover, and no one was injured in the May 31 incident. Vechirko, 35, of Otsego was charged five months later with threats of violence, a felony, and criminal vehicular operation, a gross misdemeanor. His case is pending.

Smith, a 32-year-old father of three, was killed after task force members surrounded him on the top floor of the parking garage at Seven Points, the shopping mall formerly known as Calhoun Square. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said he fired a gun from his vehicle as the task force tried to arrest him on a warrant from Ramsey County for being a felon in possession of a gun.

An unidentified woman who was with Smith at the time said she never saw him with a weapon, her attorneys said last week. Authorities have said that no body or dash camera or surveillance footage is available in the case.

Jordan C.K., who lives two blocks from the scene, said Monday morning that he's angry at the lack of information about Smith's death.

"Let's get the questions dialed in," he said. "Who killed Winston Smith? Let's have a name. Why does the North Star Task Force get a green light to come into our city, kill a man and give no information?" your social media marketing partner