Minneapolis man charged with vehicular homicide in cyclist's death

  • Article by: MAYA RAO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 7, 2014 - 9:29 PM

Authorities say John Iverson, charged with vehicular homicide, had a blood alcohol level of 0.27.

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The ghost bike tribute to Marcus Nalls, 26, at the spot on W. Franklin Ave. where he was struck and killed by a van on Monday night while riding his bicycle. This photo was made Thursday evening, February 6, 2014.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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A Minneapolis man has been charged with criminal vehicular homicide, accused of being drunk when he ran over a bike rider on Franklin Avenue in south Minneapolis a week ago.

The driver, John Iverson, 49, had a blood alcohol level of 0.27, which is three times the legal limit, authorities said. Those results came from a preliminary breath test, though further toxicology results are pending.

“Not only was he drunk, but he was driving too fast,” said Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, who did not give a speed estimate.

After charges were filed Thursday, Iverson turned himself in Friday morning.

Calling the episode tragic and unnecessary, Freeman said he would seek bail of $150,000 and conditions such as wearing an electronic bracelet to prevent him from driving. The hearing is expected to take place Monday.

If convicted, Iverson faces up to four years in prison.

Iverson is accused of running down Marcus Nalls, a 26-year-old sous chef and bicycle commuter who had lights on the front and back of his bike. He also was wearing a helmet.

A dedicated cyclist who commuted for several years while living and working in Atlanta, Nalls embraced winter cycling when the Hyatt Regency recently promoted and relocated him to Minneapolis.

Stacey Allen, a close friend of Nalls’, said she was “grateful and happy that [Iverson] did the right thing by turning himself in. … We just wanted to see charges filed.”

Nalls’ mother, Nicole Sweigart, said she thinks the charge is correct. “I don’t know if he’s remorseful or anything,” she said. “I just want him to pay for what he did, that’s all.”

Members of the biking community are organizing a memorial for him Saturday.

A Facebook page announcing the ride has more than 150 people signed up, with many others saying they will attend “in spirit.”

“I’m trying to keep this as positive as possible,” said organizer Ginny Herman, who urged others on the Facebook page to refrain from talking about drunken driving or anything “anti-car.”

Ani Loizzo, who posted on the Facebook page, said in an interview that she didn’t know Nalls personally but was friends with another young cyclist, Elyse Stern, who was hit fatally by a car in March. A few months later, another woman, Jessica Hanson, was killed in a crash a few blocks from Loizzo’s home in the Whittier neighborhood.

“Because of the route I take, I ride past [Hanson’s] ghost bike every single day,” Loizzo said. “It’s something that I think every single bike commuter thinks about when they’re riding … the chance that they could be easily killed simply by someone’s inattention.”

 

Staff writers Matt McKinney and Emma Nelson contributed to this report.

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