Driver Who Rammed Minneapolis Protestors Charged With Traffic Offenses

A teenage girl was injured when St. Paul resident Jeffrey Rice drove into a November street protest. Image: KSTP.com
A teenage girl was injured when St. Paul resident Jeffrey Rice drove into a November street protest. Image: KSTP.com

The motorist who drove through a Minneapolis street protest last November, injuring a teenage girl, was charged with misdemeanor traffic offenses.

According to the Star Tribune, Hennepin County officials brought three charges against 40-year-old Jeffrey P. Rice, of St. Paul, four months after he drove his Subaru directly into protestors following the grand jury decision in the Darren Wilson-Michael Brown shooting case.

Rice was charged with:

  • Reckless or careless driving, based on “willful of wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property”
  • Careless driving, based on a “disregard of the rights of others, or in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger any property of any person.”
  • Failure to avoid colliding with a pedestrian, based on the lack of “due care”

The Star Tribune reports that, according to the criminal complaint, “Rice admitted to police that he saw the people in the street before he went ahead and ‘drove through them.’” But the Hennepin County prosecutor declined to file felony charges in February, describing the crash as an “accident” and saying “the actions Mr. Rice took did not reflect intent or actions that constitute a crime that could be charged.”

If convicted, the Star Tribune says, Rice is unlikely to get a jail sentence:

Upon conviction, each charge calls for punishment of 0 to 90 days in jail and a fine ranging from $0 to $1,000. Misdemeanor offenses such as these rarely lead to incarceration.

Authorities initially referred to Rice as the “victim” in police reports.

  • Jules

    How is this considered an “accident” when the driver saw the pedestrians and drove forward into them anyway? I think it’s expected that when a vehicle decides to drive into a crowd of people, the vehicle will make contact with pedestrians. Did he assume that they would all flee in time, to avoid hitting his car? Based on “failure to avoid colliding with a pedestrian, based on the lack of ‘due care'”, it seems he would have had plenty of time to apply the brakes (indicating that he did not intend to collide with the pedestrians). And yet, he didn’t. By logic, could this prove his intent to collide because he could have reasonably used his brakes and chose not to?

  • How surprising I find this:

  • jd_x

    And of course, even though it’s the most obvious punishment available, his driving license will not be revoked for even a month let alone the 5 years it deserves. Sickening that our society is so addicted to cars that we can’t even imagine punishing somebody by not letting them drive even though the car enables this sort of psychotic behavior.

  • david vartanoff

    Too bad the prosecutor can’t be fired for refusing to properly charge. If as reported the driver admitted he saw the protesters And elected to continue driving, we have positive criminal activity, NOT AN ACCIDENT. Several years and a felony on his record as well as a multi year post prison denial of driving privileges might make him smarten up.

  • Chris

    Why is this not different than a person with a knife going around stabbing people? Car is much of a weapon as a knife. And if it kills, it’s like a gun. What a eff’ed nation we live in!

  • JayinPhiladelphia

    “There but for the grace of G-d go I…”

    In most cases, I’m sure prosecutors and / or juries really do sympathize with deadly road ragers more than with their victims. It really is sick, isn’t it?

    What is the argument against at least permanently revoking his driving privileges? That he couldn’t get to work? Sentencing anybody to prison for anything would seem to trigger such concerns, if you ask me. Wonder where the line is drawn.

  • Soupetal

    I don’t agree that this was an “accident” in the normal sense of that word, because the impact was caused by a deliberate act. On the other hand, I’m not sure that “road rage” captures it either, because that typically involves an incident between two legal road users.

    In this case the pedestrians were actually protesters illegally blocking a highway. Their illegal action mitigates the guilt of this driver. There was a very real and easily predictable risk of an impact or injury if you knowingly block a highway. In doing so, the protesters assumed that all drivers would simply stop and allow themselves to be delayed, potentially for hours. That is an inherently anti-social and dangerous act.

    On balance, I think traffic charges but not more serious charges seems appropriate to me.

  • Soupetal

    Jules, in some European towns (thinking of Italy at the minute) there are streets where vehicles are allowed but that are typically thronged with people. What I have noticed in those situations is that the vehicles inch forward. If the drivers did not do that, they would be stuck for hours. The walkers cede space, slowly, and the vehicle at least makes some progress.

    This situation reminds me of that. The driver may have thought that if he inched forward very slowly, the crowds would disperse around him, allowing him to slowly..

    He probably didn’t reckon anyone being sufficiently obstinate or politically motivated to effectively martyr themselves under his wheels.

    Nobody comes out of this looking good.

  • JayinPhiladelphia

    If the protestors were illegally blocking the road, then that is a matter for police, not an entitled motorist who clearly has no regard for the lives of others.

    I would argue that purposely ramming pedestrians with heavy machinery is a far more anti-social and dangerous act.

  • mldickens

    What? Have you watched the video? He didn’t “inch forward” – he drove through the crowd at too high a speed.

    The only person who doesn’t look good is the one who used a metal vehicle to injure people who were inconveniencing him.

  • mldickens
  • I agree this is assault with a deadly weapon at the very least if not attempted murder.

  • Except the gun has a 91% survival rate if it hits you, where a motor vehicle drops below that at 23 MPH, and becomes 4 times as deadly at just 30 MPH with a survival rate of under 60%.

  • How is intentionally driving through a group of pedestrians not constitute evidence of “intent” under the law? That makes no sense.

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