Earlier this month, everyday bustle in north Minneapolis came to a screeching stop after a van plowed into a bus shelter on Broadway and Lyndale. The impact left the shelter a twisted husk and injured six people – several of them critically.
Metro Transit Police got on the scene quickly, and spokesperson Howie Padilla summarized the events leading up to the crash. The van had been driving south when it pinged a mirror of a Metro Transit bus parked on Lyndale. Then it backed up, hit the mirror a second time, and veered right.
“The van then, for whatever reason… smashed into the shelter,” Padilla said.
There were murmurs in the gathering crowd – captured in the moment on several cellphone videos taken by witnesses – about the nature of the crash. There were rumblings of it being not only intentional, but a “hate crime.” The people who had been in the bus shelter when it got hit were predominantly black, and the driver was white.
Said driver turned out to be an 83-year-old man from Champlin named George Jensen. Police took him in after the crash, but he was released that same afternoon “pending further investigation.” The Star Tribune later reported that police hadn’t performed a field sobriety test or charged him with anything.
“The driver gave investigators no indication that this was an intentional act,” Padilla told the Tribune.
But that wasn’t a satisfying answer for some residents of the North Side. At a news conference held later that week, members of Racial Justice Network and Black Lives Matter Twin Cities called on police to “do their job” and “get justice for the six people who got hit,” according to the Tribune.
Jensen’s lawyer maintained the crash was an accident.
Now a Metro Transit police investigator is claiming surveillance contradicts what Jensen says happened. According to the Tribune, investigator Paul Buzicky says Jensen claimed he mistook the accelerator for the brake, which caused the crash.
But in a search warrant affidavit filed this week, Buzicky said video showed the van traveling west at “a very slow rate of speed” with its brake lights on before suddenly zipping ahead and careening toward the shelter, seemingly indicating Jensen had had his foot on the brake in the first place. Buzicky wrote that Jensen appeared to be piloting his 2002 Ford in a “grossly negligent manner.”
It’s not on Metro Transit any longer to decide whether Jensen will be charged. Last Friday, police turned over the investigation to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, which will hand that decision down once it reaches a verdict.