MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A St. Paul man accused of killing a woman in Minneapolis by driving into protesters while he was drunk will be examined to determine if he is competent for trial.
Nicholas Kraus, 35, made his initial court appearance Thursday on a charge of intentional murder. The hearing was held over Zoom and Kraus appeared on video from the Hennepin County jail wearing a surgical mask and a green, sleeveless vest that appeared to be padded. Kraus did not enter a plea.
Prosecutors say Kraus was visibly intoxicated Sunday night when he sped up and tried to “jump” a car that protesters were using as a barricade in the Uptown neighborhood. Thirty-one-year-old Deona Knajdek, also known as Deona Erickson, was killed.
Results from a blood test after the crash are pending.
There’s nothing in the criminal complaint to suggest Kraus’ actions were motivated by political views or anger at protesters. In addition to second-degree intentional murder, he’s also charged with two counts of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon, for injuring two other protesters.
Kraus has five convictions for driving while impaired dating back to 2007 and had no license at the time of the latest crash.
Hennepin County Judge Kerry Meyer said a doctor from the courts would talk to Kraus and if he is found competent, his next hearing will be in August.
According to the criminal complaint, Kraus told officers he believed he needed to jump over a car that protesters were using as a barricade, and though he saw people in the area, he accelerated and did not try to brake. It also says he admitted that he thought he might have hit someone.
Protests have been ongoing in Uptown since members of a U.S. Marshals Service task force fatally shot Winston Boogie Smith Jr., a 32-year-old Black father of three, on June 3. Authorities said they were trying to arrest Smith on a warrant for being a felon in possession of a firearm when he displayed a handgun from inside a parked SUV. Authorities also say evidence shows Smith fired his gun from inside the SUV, but a female passenger has said she never saw him with a gun.
Minneapolis has been on edge since the death of George Floyd, who died last year after an officer used his knee to pin Floyd’s neck to the ground, and the fatal police shooting of another Black man, Daunte Wright, in a nearby suburb.