MINNEAPOLIS — Nicholas Kraus, 35, was driving drunk with a suspended license June 12, when he came upon protesters who had blocked off a section of Lake Street near Girard Avenue in the Minneapolis Uptown neighborhood, according to the criminal complaint filed in Hennepin County.
He told police that upon seeing the barricade, he felt the need to “get over it,” the complaint said. He also told police that he did not brake, rather he accelerated in an attempt to jump the barricade despite seeing people.
Police officers found Deona M. Knajdek, 31, of Minneapolis, suffering from severe head injuries. She died shortly after.
“This office is shocked by this level of violence in our streets,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said, in a statement. “His behavior and admittance to intentionally driving towards the protesters is one important reason why we have charged him with intentional second-degree murder.”
Kraus’ criminal record shows five prior convictions for driving while impaired. His driver’s license was canceled in 2013 because he was found to be harmful to public safety. The SUV he was driving June 12 was registered in another person’s name.
Another person who suffered injuries in the crash told police that Kraus’ SUV came barreling toward the group of protesters and hit one of the barricade vehicles with such force that it was pushed back into the group of bystanders, the complaint states.
Kraus will make his first appearance in Hennepin District Court at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, June 17.
There have been ongoing protests in Uptown since the June 3 shooting of Winston Boogie Smith Jr., 32, of St. Paul, by members of a U.S. Marshals Service task force. The officers were attempting to apprehend Smith on a warrant for illegal gun possession when he was shot on the roof of a parking ramp.
The female passenger who was in the car with Smith has issued a statement through her attorneys saying that she did not see Smith possess a gun in the car.
Authorities with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension have said that Smith possessed a gun at the time and had fired it. The BCA said last week it stands by its statement from a June 4 news release: “Evidence at the scene indicates that (Smith) fired his weapon from inside the vehicle. BCA crime scene personnel recovered a handgun as well as spent cartridge cases from inside the driver’s compartment.”
Law enforcement involved in the incident did not wear body cameras. The BCA has said the U.S Marshals Service does not allow officers on its North Star Fugitive Task Force to use body cameras and there is no squad-car camera footage of the shooting.
The city of Minneapolis has cleared the street of barricades at least twice in recent days, but protesters continue to gather there. Mayor Jacob Frey has called the matter a “safety concern” and said a major commercial corridor could not be shut down.