A police investigation is casting doubt on the claims of an 83-year-old motorist that he confused the gas pedal for the brake moments before plowing into a north Minneapolis bus shelter earlier this month, injuring six people, court filings show.
An investigator with Metro Transit police, which is investigating the incident that highlighted racial tension in the North Side, said that the driver's account of the crash doesn't align with surveillance video, which shows his van traveling west at a "very slow rate of speed" with brake lights activated, before suddenly accelerating as it turned directly into the shelter.
"The driver was interviewed and stated he mistook the accelerator for the brake, which contradicts the video evidence," Metro Transit police officer Paul Buzicky wrote in a search warrant affidavit. The video shows the driver, George Jensen, of Champlin, operating the 2002 gold Ford van in a "grossly negligent manner," Buzicky wrote.
No charges have been brought to date against Jensen in the July 9 incident.
In the weeks since the crash, Buzicky has applied for at least two warrants, one of which was to recover data from the van's air-bag sensor. It wasn't immediately clear what the sensor — which records "data of the vehicle's functioning, including brake usage, speed, and other vehicle operations," the warrant said — revealed.
A field sobriety test performed later at Metro Transit headquarters revealed no signs of impairment, a spokesman said.
Witnesses told investigators that Jensen was heading south on Lyndale Avenue and clipped the mirror of a southbound Route 22 bus that had stopped at W. Broadway to unload passengers. Jensen was then said to have backed up and struck the mirror a second time, before turning around the corner and crashing into the bus shelter on Broadway and Lyndale Avenue N.
Civil rights activists later blasted Metro Transit for what they say was a failure to charge Jensen, who is white, because of his race. The injured all are black.
Buzicky, the investigator, obtained updated medical records for two of the victims, Zewdu Eshetu, 56, and Richard H. Smith, 52, both of Minneapolis, who remained "medically sedated" in critical condition at the time the warrant was filed.
Another victim declined medical attention at the scene, police said. The other victims are: Napolean Durley Jr., 61, of St. Louis Park, and Anthony Brown, 56, and Elmuiz E. Gubartialla, 57, both of Minneapolis.
Metro Transit spokesman Howie Padilla said the case was turned over last Friday to the Hennepin County Attorney's Office, which will decide whether criminal charges are warranted. A call to the county attorney's office wasn't immediately returned.
Staff writer Tim Harlow contributed to this report.