Champlin resident George Reeves Jensen, 83, was charged with five counts of criminal vehicular operation, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Aug. 30.
On July 9, Jensen crashed his van into a Metro Transit bus shelter and injured five people in north Minneapolis. The criminal complaint states Minneapolis and Metro Transit Police officers were dispatched to a collision between a conversion van driven by Jensen and a bus shelter near the intersection of West Broadway Avenue and Lyndale Avenue North.
As a result of the incident, the bus shelter structure was demolished and five individuals in and around the structure were injured. Three of the five were pinned under rubble from the bus shelter and one was pinned under the passenger side of the van, the complaint states.
During a press conference, Freeman said surveillance footage captured Jensen interacting with several women near the Broadway-Lyndale intersection before he drove through a liquor store parking lot, circled back toward the intersection and sideswiped a Metro Transit bus. A witness said Jensen frequented the area and often offered women $10 for their phone numbers, Freeman added.
After hitting the bus, Jensen approached the same intersection again at a slow speed, hit the brakes a few times, drove one side of his van over the curb, slightly accelerated and crashed into the bus shelter and people in and around it, the complaint states.
At the Aug. 30 press conference, Freeman said Jensen gave conflicting statements, including providing several varying reasons as to why he was in the north Minneapolis neighborhood. At one point, he claimed that he mistook the gas pedal for the brake pedal during the crash, yet couldn’t explain why he drove up the curb, Freeman added.
“This is a strange case, and this is a place where Minnesota statute seemed lacking,” Freeman said. Criminal vehicular operation is considered a one to five year felony, but under the sentencing guidelines prison time isn’t always given and previous criminal history is considered, he added. “Most judges are not going to give an 83-year-old man prison time if he doesn’t have a prior criminal record.”
Activist Spike Moss attended the Aug. 30 press conference and asked Freeman why Jensen was not being charged with a hate crime, attempted murder or using the vehicle as a weapon.
In response, Freeman said, “During my time as county attorney, I’ve had to make some tough decisions and I made those decisions without consideration of race either as to the alleged perpetrator or to the victim.”
Moss described the incident as a “hate crime on my black people in north Minneapolis,” and said “we’re still waiting on justice.”
“In order to charge someone with attempted murder, we have to prove that the person intended to murder that individual but failed,” Freeman added. Moving forward, Freeman said the case will be looked at again if additional facts are brought forth and agreed to meet with Moss to discuss the case further.
Jensen’s first court date has been set for Sept. 23.
During the press conference, Freeman also said, “The injuries suffered were profound. This office and myself have sympathy and empathy for the victims, two of whom are still receiving hospital care as I understand it.”
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.