Driver charged with murder after ramming into protesters in Minneapolis, killing 1, officials say

MINNEAPOLIS — Prosecutors in Hennepin County on Wednesday announced that a second-degree murder charge has been filed against the man accused of driving into protestors in Minneapolis late on Sunday night, killing one person and injuring another.

>> Read more trending news

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Nicholas Kraus, 35, was drunk when he struck and killed a female protester in Uptown. Kraus faces one count of intentional second-degree murder in connection with the incident.

Peaceful protesters had gathered to demonstrate following the death of Winston Boogie Smith Jr., 32, who was shot by authorities on June 3 in an incident that was not caught on body camera, according to the Star Tribune and USA Today.

Officials said Kraus was driving on a suspended license at the time of the crash. He also has several prior convictions for driving while intoxicated, according to prosecutors.

On Wednesday, Freeman called the incident “an extreme and violent intentional act.”

“His behavior and admittance to intentionally driving towards the protesters is one important reason why we have charged him with intentional second-degree murder,” he said.

>> Related: Minneapolis protest: 1 dead, suspect in custody after driver strikes demonstrators

Police said Kraus struck protesters gathered near the intersection of Lake Street West and Girard Avenue South around 11:40 p.m. on Sunday. A witness, who was also injured during the incident, told police that the suspect’s SUV “came barreling towards the group of protestors and hit one of the barricade vehicles with such force that it was pushed back into the group of bystanders,” according to prosecutors.

The witness added that “Kraus began accelerating as he neared the makeshift barricades and pedestrians.” Prosecutors said surveillance video from the area corroborated that statement.

In a criminal complaint, Officer Jeremy Brodin said Kraus initially gave officials a false name. When he was interviewed the day after the incident, he “stated that he saw the barricade, that it was a car, and that he believed he needed to get over it.”

Brodin said Kraus admitted to seeing people nearby. Still, he told police that he “floored the accelerator because he thought that would help him jump the barricade.”

Protesters pulled Kraus from his car, after which he was arrested.

Responding officials said they found a woman on the ground with severe head injuries after being struck by Kraus. She later died of her injuries, prosecutors said. Family members identified her to WCCO as Deona Knajdek.

“(Deona) was trying to do something better for the world. She’s always been known to risk everything for everybody and this proves it,” Knajdek’s brother, Garrett Knajdek, told the news station. “Of all the people I know she’s been through far more than anybody and still continues to smile every single day no matter how dark it was.”

Kraus is expected to make his first court appearance on June 17.