MINNEAPOLIS — Metro Transit Police are looking into new leads surrounding a crash at a bus shelter in Minneapolis that injured 6 people.
It comes on the same day that members of racial justice groups are demanding answers.
Tuesday, Metro Transit Police said an 83-year-old man from Champlin was behind the crash that left three of the six in critical condition. All of the victims were black, the driver was white. The crash happened at 9:23 a.m. at the bus stop on Lyndale Avenue and West Broadway Avenue.
Members of the Racial Justice Network and Black Lives Matter Twin Cities raised concern about why the driver was released and hasn't been charged.
Nekima Levy Armstrong, a northside resident and civil rights attorney, said she is concerned witness statements were not taken seriously.
“Our concern has to do with unequal treatment on the part of Metro Transit in terms of how they dealt with the perpetrator of what we call an intentional action and violence against black bodies in our community,” Levy-Armstrong said. “Why is Metro Transit investigating this incident? We do not believe that Metro Transit Police are equipped to investigate possibly as a hate crime based upon the concerns people have raised in this community.”
An attorney representing the suspect, Mark R. Bradford, released the statement to the Star Tribune:
"We are aware the matter is under investigation and are confident the facts will bear out that this was truly an unintended and unfortunate accident. In the meantime, we will continue to keep the injured persons in our prayers."
On Thursday, Metro Transit Police spokesperson Howie Padilla said the department is still trying to “piece together pieces of the puzzle.” They haven’t said what led up to the crash.
Witnesses told investigators the driver first hit the mirror of a bus that had pulled over to let people off at the stop. Darnell Jackson was treated at the scene of the crash. He said he noticed the driver of the van circle the area.
“We thought it wasn't nothing just an old white guy. He came through this parking lot and back around and then got on the sidewalk and ran into us,” Jackson said. “It was a racist act and it was premeditated because he came around twice.”
By contrast, Padilla said “We have nothing that indicates this was a race related crime."
The 83-year-old driver was released the day of the crash. Padilla added the department hopes to turn its case over to the Hennepin County prosecutor by the end of next week. That office will determine whether or not to file charges. He also said despite concerns from the community, Metro Transit is equipped to handle this investigation.
“We have sworn officers and crash deconstructionists. We are a full-time law enforcement agency that investigates crime,” Padilla said.
Jonetta Watts says her fiance, Richard Smith, was among the injured.
He has a crushed pelvis and other broken bones.
“He can’t hardly talk. Can't hardly move. His hands are just up and shaking but I grabbed them,” watts said as she wiped away tears. “He still has a hand full of blood and needs pins in his spine.”
Levy-Armstrong said she and other members of the community will continue to push for truth.
“Some may say this man is in his 80's, but he was young enough to drive from Champlin all the way to North Minneapolis. He was young enough to get in his vehicle to do whatever activities he came to the north side to do,” she said. “He is young enough to spend time in prison if this was an intentional action.”
Meanwhile, the destroyed bus shelter was replaced Thursday.
KARE 11 is not naming the suspect because he has not been formally charged.