Driver plows into Minneapolis protesters, killing 1 and injuring others

The driver was hospitalized for injuries after some protesters "began to strike" him, police said


By Paul Walsh, John Reinan and Paul Walsh and John Reinan
Star Tribune

MINNEAPOLIS — A 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.

A man drove into a group of protesters, killing one woman and injuring others at an Uptown Minneapolis intersection late Sunday. The scene as it looked Monday.
A man drove into a group of protesters, killing one woman and injuring others at an Uptown Minneapolis intersection late Sunday. The scene as it looked Monday. (Star Tribune)

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.

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."

Identities of the driver and those who were injured have yet to be released.

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 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.

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."

There have been ongoing protests in Uptown since Smith's death.

The entry lane to the parking garage where Smith was shot has been painted and repainted at least five times in the past week as activists and the property owner strive for the last word.

Earlier Sunday, a high-profile business announced that it's pulling out of Uptown after 35 years, citing concerns about crime and social unrest. Juut Salon Spa is a fixture at the corner of Hennepin Avenue and Lake Street.

"It has become more and more evident that Uptown continues to struggle with store closings, social unrest, crime and street closures," a Facebook posting by the company read. "We would be heartbroken if anything were to happen to our team members or clients. With that at the forefront, we made this difficult decision."

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. Authorities say 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? And where the hell is Mayor Jacob Frey?"

©2021 StarTribune. Visit startribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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