A Champlin man was charged in connection with crashing his van into a bus shelter and injuring five people, two of them seriously.
George Reeves Jensen, 83, was charged with five counts of criminal vehicular operation. A date for his first court appearance has not yet been set.
“This case is perplexing because the facts of the incident clearly fits within the criminal vehicular operation statute, but the injuries resulting from Mr. Jensen’s driving raises questions about more severe charges,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said on Friday (Aug. 30). “Our deepest sympathies are with the innocent people who were just waiting at the bus stop and suddenly were suffering severe injuries. But after reviewing the thorough investigation, we just did not have the facts to charge something other than criminal vehicular operation.”
According to the criminal complaint, on the morning of July 9, police were called to a bus shelter near the intersection of West Broadway and Lyndale Avenues where a conversion van had crashed into it and three people were pinned under the rubble from the shelter and one was pinned under the passenger side of the van. Jensen was the driver.
Two witnesses told investigators that they saw Jensen pull his van in front of the bus stop and was talking to three women, one standing by the driver’s door and two others by the passenger door. One of the witnesses said it appeared Jensen was trying to pay one of the women but none of them were interested, the complaint states. One of the women told police that she knew Jensen as Howard and that he had been coming around for three years and would give the women $10 if they would give him their phone number.
Surveillance video showed the women by the van, then Jensen turned right, just past the bus shelter, into a liquor store parking lot. He drove through the lot and exited onto Lyndale Avenue, driving south. A Metro Transit bus was in the right lane and as he passed it, Jensen sideswiped the bus. Then he backed up and hit the bus again, but never stopped to check the damage or talk to the bus driver, according to the complaint.
Jensen then crept slowly out into the intersection against the red light and finally made a right turn back onto Broadway Avenue when the light turned green, the complaint states. The video shows Jensen tapping his brakes four times for no apparent reason as he veered between the two lanes. As he approached the middle of the block, he slowly veered on to the curb so two tires were on the road and two on the sidewalk.
Jensen then accelerated slowly, striking a bench, a news stand and a bike rack before ramming into the bus shelter, causing its collapse, according to the complaint.
In an interview, Jensen gave conflicting statements. He did acknowledge that he has been to that area several times before and talks to one woman in particular, sometimes giving her money just to help her out, according to the complaint. He said he hit the gas accidentally instead of the brake, but could not explain why he needed to hit the brake or why he was on the sidewalk.
One victim suffered multiple pelvic fractures and significant blood loss as well as fractures of the ribs and vertebra. Another victim suffered rib fractures, a lacerated spleen, fractures of both legs, a lung contusion and scalp laceration. A third victim suffered a traumatic brain injury and multiple fractured ribs. Another victim suffered a fractured spine and the final victim suffered multiple rib fractures, the complaint states.
Nekima Levy Armstrong, civil rights attorney and activist, said the actions of Jensen warranted greater charges.
“George Jensen recklessly and intentionally drove his van into six Black men at a bus shelter in North Minneapolis, critically injuring several of the victims. It is appalling that Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman did not charge Jenson with first degree assault as well as hate crime charges,” said Levy Armstrong. “Freeman is once again demonstrating that Black lives don’t matter in Hennepin County by giving Jensen a slap on the wrist. Every day, his office charges Black people with serious crimes, often with far less evidence than is present in this case.”