The truck driver who drove onto the I-35W Bridge and narrowly missed hitting protesters over the weekend was released from jail Tuesday, but prosecutors continue investigating the incident in consultation with the state's senior public safety official.
Bogdan Vechirko, 35, of Otsego, was jailed Sunday evening on suspicion of assault and held in the Hennepin County jail until midday Tuesday in connection with his empty fuel tanker barreling through a crowd marching to protest the May 25 death of George Floyd after being restrained by Minneapolis police.
The County Attorney's Office had until noon Tuesday to hold Vechirko without charges before they had to release him, pending further investigation, County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a statement Tuesday.
"Investigators are in the process of gathering additional information and answers to aid in the charging decision," the statement says.
Earlier Tuesday, a relative of Vechirko's said the harrowing incident was unintentional.
Art Loghinov said he has spoken with Vechirko since Sunday's near-deadly sequence of events and is convinced that the incident on the bridge was "not his fault. … He didn't have any intent to harm or do anything bad to anybody."
State Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said Monday that the driver was speeding and "panicked, and he just kept barreling forward" but did not breach any barriers put up to protect the protesters and was not aiming for anyone.
On Tuesday, Harrington said he'd been talking with Freeman about potential charges.
"We just want to make sure, even though no one was killed … we are certainly getting to the right charge that holds him accountable for the behaviors," he said.
Several protesters on the bridge, including Drew Valle, said the truck's driver "wasn't stopping. He was beeping loudly and driving into a crowd of people."
Minneapolis schoolteacher Doug Butler said that while "we perhaps cannot know his motives … he sped [and] hurtled into protesters."
Loghinov and others in the family commissioned a brief video that features Vechirko's wife appealing for financial help on behalf of the couple.
Liudmila Vechirko, who is eight months pregnant, says in Russian with subtitles, "Due to multiple requests, I am recording this video for those who care and want to help our family." She then holds up a piece of paper with an address for a PayPal fundraising account.
Liudmila Vechirko adds that "our credit cards are frozen since they stole his wallet, phone and all the belongings in the truck's cabin."
Loghinov also said the family is "very thankful for the people who came to rescue him and very grateful for the police" who fended off some of the marchers who began attacking Vechirko after his truck came to a stop on the bridge over the Mississippi River.
As for possible charges against those who went after Vechirko, state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension spokeswoman Jill Oliveira said Wednesday that "during interviews with him, the truck driver indicated to the BCA that he does not wish for charges to be filed against anyone for his injuries or damage sustained during the incident."
The couple's financial situation is under pressure from Vechirko missing work, his wife being pregnant and the potential for legal bills in connection with the incident, Loghinov said.
"They are not a rich family," he said. "He is a hard worker and the only one bringing money to the family."
Loghinov said Bogdan Vechirko came to the United States from Russia when he was 4 years old and met Liudmila in Minnesota.
"He's a nice, friendly guy," Loghinov said. "He was just going home."
Staff writer Jessie Van Berkel contributed to this report. Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482