Man jailed in fatal crash at Minneapolis rally has past DWIs
Published 5:30 pm Tuesday, June 15, 2021
MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis police on Tuesday identified the man who drove into a crowd of demonstrators, killing one and injuring three others, as a 35-year-old from St. Paul with multiple convictions for driving while impaired.
Police say Nicholas Kraus was booked into the Hennepin County jail on suspicion of criminal vehicular homicide. Online jail records show he was arrested early Monday and was being held without bail. He’s also being held on suspicion of driving after a license was canceled and providing false information to police, records show.
The Hennepin County jail does not accept messages for people in custody and a phone message could not be left for Kraus. Prosecutors have asked for an extension until noon Wednesday to file charges, and it was not immediately clear if he has an attorney to speak on his behalf.
A woman, who family members identified as 31-year-old Deona Knajdek, was killed Sunday night and three other people were injured when Kraus drove into demonstrators during a rally in Minneapolis’ Uptown neighborhood.
There have been ongoing protests in Uptown, about 2 1/2 miles (4 kilometers) south of downtown, since the June 3 shooting of Winston Boogie Smith Jr., a Black man and 32-year-old father of three, by members of a federal U.S. Marshals Service task force.
Authorities said they were trying to arrest Smith on a warrant for being a felon in possession of a firearm, when he displayed a handgun from inside a parked vehicle and task force members fired. Authorities also say evidence shows Smith fired his gun from inside the vehicle, but a female passenger has said she never saw him with a gun.
The city of Minneapolis has also been on edge since the death of George Floyd under an officers’ knee last year and the fatal police shooting of another Black man, Daunte Wright, in a nearby suburb.
Witnesses have said that in Sunday’s crash, the driver of an SUV, now identified as Kraus, struck a parked car, tossing it into the crowd of demonstrators. Police have not confirmed that account. Police said protesters pulled Kraus from his vehicle and that witnesses reported demonstrators began striking him. Kraus was arrested and treated for injuries at a hospital.
Police have said Kraus’ motive wasn’t clear, but that a preliminary investigation indicated drugs or alcohol may have been involved. Kraus has multiple convictions for driving while impaired dating back to 2007, according to online court records. Court records also show his driver’s license was canceled in the past because he was found as “inimical to public safety.”
Other injuries and deaths have been reported involving vehicles at protests across the U.S. as people have increasingly taken to the streets to press their grievances. In Minneapolis, marching onto freeways has become a common tactic. Last year, a semitrailer rolled into a crowd marching on a closed Minneapolis freeway. No one was seriously injured.
Republican politicians in several states, including Oklahoma, Florida and Iowa, have sought legal immunity for drivers who hit protesters.