The Champlin man charged with crashing into a bus shelter in north Minneapolis this summer, injuring six men, made his first court appearance Thursday afternoon.
George R. Jensen, 83, took careful, shuffling steps to the podium with the aid of a walker. A cane also dangled from the device. He did not enter any pleas to the charges, which typically occurs at a later hearing. His next hearing is set for Oct. 14.
Jensen was charged last month with five counts of criminal vehicular operation in the July 9 incident that left three men in critical condition and three others injured.
His attorney, Mark Kelly, released a statement afterward, saying that the crash was an accident and that Jensen was headed to the farmers market at the time. "Mr. Jensen and his family have been praying for a full and speedy recovery for all affected," the statement said.
The case drew blistering criticism from several civil rights leaders who felt that Jensen was receiving preferential treatment because he is white and his victims are black. They called for the Minnesota Supreme Court to take the case over from Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, although a legal scholar said such a move is difficult.
Activist Spike Moss has accused Jensen of intentional harm.
Jensen's statement said he previously owned a business in north Minneapolis and considered it "a community in which he has always felt a kinship."
Activist Tyrone Terrill said Thursday that he rejected Jensen's statement.
"This is all legal lawyer conduct to make him look better in court," Terrill said.
Jensen will turn himself in for booking at the county jail before his next court hearing, Kelly said. Defendants charged via summons, as Jensen was, are typically released after booking.
Hennepin County District Judge Jay Quam ordered Jensen not to drive until his case is resolved. Kelly said Jensen was not driving.
According to the charges against Jensen, he was seen talking to three women in front of the bus shelter on W. Broadway near Lyndale Avenue N. while in his van. One woman told police that he was a regular visitor and allegedly gave women $10 in exchange for their phone numbers.
Freeman would not say whether he believes Jensen was looking for prostitutes.
Jensen allegedly drove away, clipped a Metro Transit bus, drove around and drove onto the curb where he struck a bench, news stand, a bike rack and then the bus shelter.
Among other injuries, one man suffered several pelvic fractures, another suffered rib fractures, a third suffered a traumatic brain injury, a fourth suffered a fractured spine and a fifth suffered rib fractures.