An 83-year-old Minnesota man will finally face criminal charges in the bus shelter crash that left five victims, all of whom are African-American, seriously injured.
The charges come nearly two months after George Jensen plowed his van into a bus shelter near the corner of W. Broadway and Lyndale Avenues in north Minneapolis on July 6. Three people were rushed to local hospitals in critical condition, including one man who was pinned underneath Jensen’s large van.
The elderly man has since been charged with five counts criminal vehicular operation, MPR reported. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman stated that while the victims’ injuries were serious, his office simply “did not have the facts to charge something other than criminal vehicular operation.”
Local activists put pressure on authorities to bring charges, like attempted murder, against Jensen and voiced frustration after the driver was initially released from police custody after the crash. Those who witnessed the horrible incident believed the crash was “a very deliberate attack by a racist” targeting the mostly Black passengers waiting at the bus stop that day.
“There was a white man who drove around the block several times and crashed into the bus stop intentionally where a bunch of brothers and sisters were hanging out,” an unidentified man said in a video posted online of the “unbelievable” and chaotic scene. It was unclear if the narrator actually witnessed the incident.
Despite all this, Freeman said that given Jensen’s age and clean record, he likely won’t face jail time.
“This is a strange case, and this is a place where Minnesota statutes seem lacking,” the attorney said at a press conference Friday after the charges were announced.
Local activist Spike Moss expressed anger at the news.
“This is just disrespect, blatant disrespect for African-American human beings, that’s what this is. No compassion, no concern,” Moss said.
In their complaint, prosecutors said a witness told investigators they saw Jensen, 83, pull his van in front of the bus stop and a talk to three women. The witness said it “appeared Jensen was trying to pay one of the women,” however, none of them were interested.
According to their statement, one of the women told authorities that Jenson, whom she knew as “Howard,” had been coming around for the past three years and would give the women $10 if they gave him their phone numbers.
Surveillance footage shows the women near Jensen’s van, then captures the elderly man driving oddly in the area, at one point passing through a liquor store parking lot before getting back onto Lyndale Avenue. That’s when he sideswipes a MetroTransit bus, backs up and then hits it again, damaging a side mirror, before turning right onto West Broadway.
“Video shows Jensen tapping his brakes four times for no apparent reason as he veered between the two lanes,” according to the prosecutor’s office.
Seconds later, the motorist jumped the curb, striking a bench, a news stand and bike rack before barreling into the crowded bus shelter. A total of five people were injured in the crash, which caused the shelter to collapse.
Jenson later told police that he’d accidentally hit the gas instead of the brakes, but couldn’t explain his reason for hitting the brake or why he veered onto the sidewalk. Additionally, the prosecutor’s office wrote that the Minnesota man acknowledged frequenting the area and that he “talks to one woman in particular, sometimes giving her money just to help her out.”
“I don’t know what he was engaged in … and it’s not my business to speculate,” Freeman told reporters. “And, frankly, it’s irrelevant to what happened in this case.”
Authorities confirmed the driver wasn’t under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash.
Of Jensen’s victims, one suffered multiple pelvic, rib and vertebra fractures and significant blood loss, according to MPR. Another victim had a lacerated spleen, a lung contusion and fractures in both legs and his ribs. A third suffered a fractured spine while another is still recovering from a traumatic brain injury and fractured ribs.
The fifth victim also suffered multiple rib fractures.
Jensen’s first court appearance is set for Sept. 23.
Watch more in the video below.