A Minnesota man accused of driving his car into a group of protesters and killing one has been charged with murder, the Hennepin County District Attorney’s Office said Wednesday. Nicholas Kraus was reportedly drunk at the time of the incident, which does not appear to be a targeted attack.
The alleged incident happened just before midnight on June 13 during a peaceful protest against the death of Winston Boogie Smith Jr., a 32-year-old black man who was shot and killed by members of a federal task force US Marshals Service June 3.
Kraus, 35, is accused of driving his Jeep SUV towards the protesters and colliding with another vehicle that had been parked as a protective barricade for the protesters, thereby pushing the vehicle from the barricade towards the victims. Testimonies and surveillance video show Kraus was accelerating at the time of the crash, according to the criminal complaint.
A woman, who suffered “severe trauma to the head”, was found unconscious at the scene and later died at a local hospital, according to the complaint. Three other people also suffered injuries. The deceased victim has been identified by CBS Minnesota as Deona Knajdek, 31, activist and mother of two.
Kraus has been charged with one count of intentional second degree murder and two counts of second degree assault with a dangerous weapon. The complaint does not suggest that Kraus’ actions were politically motivated, and the second degree intentional murder charge alleges that although Kraus intended to cause death, his actions were unplanned.
At a press conference Tuesday on the charges against Kraus and another man indicted in a separate incident, Hennepin County District Attorney Mike Freeman said there was no evidence Kraus specifically targeted the demonstration.
But he nonetheless issued a strong statement condemning Kraus and the other accused, noting that while normally cases like these are charged with homicide and driving, the conduct of the men was “so serious, in my opinion, that they warranted an intentional second-degree charge. “
Kraus was arrested by others at the scene and was “visibly intoxicated” when police arrived, according to the complaint. When questioned the next day, he reportedly told officers he saw the car acting like a barricade and “he thought he had to get over it”.
“The defendant said he had accelerated to try to jump the barricade and admitted that he had not tried to brake,” says the complaint. “The accused admitted that he blocked the accelerator because he thought it would help him jump the barricade.”
Kraus allegedly admitted to officers that the vehicle was registered in someone else’s name because he lost his license due to alcohol-related offenses. The complaint indicates that Kraus has multiple DWI convictions, including one DWI conviction. His blood test results are pending.