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Mother-of-two, 31, killed after ‘drunk or high’ driver plowed through Minneapolis protest


A young mother-of-two has been identified as the protester who was killed when police say a drunk or high driver plowed into a crowd of demonstrators in Minneapolis late Sunday night. 

The brother of the woman who died after reportedly being thrown into a stop sign on impact named her as Deona Marie Knajdek. Garrett Knajdek said his sister would have celebrated her 32nd birthday on Wednesday, which also would have marked one year of sobriety for her.

He also revealed that Deona she had 11- and 13-year-old daughters, and was actively involved in issues surrounding social justice.

‘She constantly [was] sacrificing herself for everyone around her, no matter the cost, obviously,’ he said. 

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Deona Knajdek, 31, has been identified by family members as the female protester who was killed in Minneapolis on Sunday nigh

Knajdek was killed when a driver plowed into a crowd of activists

Deona Knajdek, 31, has been identified by family members as the female protester who was killed in Minneapolis on Sunday night when a driver plowed into a crowd of activists 

Knajdek lost her life and three other protesters were injured in the Uptown section when an SUV driver crashed into Knajdek's parked car at a high speed and sent it flying

Knajdek lost her life and three other protesters were injured in the Uptown section when an SUV driver crashed into Knajdek’s parked car at a high speed and sent it flying 

The deadly incident took place during a Sunday night protest against the killing of a black man

The deadly incident took place during a Sunday night protest against the killing of a black man 

Witnesses said the driver was speeding and sent Knajdek flying into a stop sign

Witnesses said the driver was speeding and sent Knajdek flying into a stop sign

Knajdek’s Facebook account is filled with references to the Black Lives Matter movement and photos of black men who have been killed by the police, including George Floyd and Daunte Wright. 

Knajdek was part of a group protesting against the killing of Winston Boogie Smith, a black man who was shot dead by US Marshals earlier this months in Minneapolis’ Uptown neighborhood. 

Witnesses said the driver of an SUV struck a parked car, tossing it into the crowd of demonstrators. Police spokesman John Elder did not confirm that account, and said authorities are still investigating.

The incident killed Knajdek and injured three other people.  

Protesters pulled the driver, who is white, from his vehicle and began hitting him as he called for police to intervene. 

The driver was ultimately taken into custody and treated for injuries at a hospital. 

The driver was pulled from his car and beaten by the crowd before being taken away in handcuffs by police late on Sunday in the Uptown area of Minneapolis.

The woman lying on the ground

The driver was pulled from his car and beaten by the crowd before being taken away in handcuffs by police late on Sunday in the Uptown area of Minneapolis (pictured: the suspect, left, and the woman lying on the ground, right)

A smashed car at the scene which the cameraman says the driver was in 'going at 100 miles an hour'

A smashed car at the scene which the cameraman says the driver was in 'going at 100 miles an hour'

A smashed car at the scene which the cameraman says the driver was in ‘going at 100 miles an hour’

A man holds the suspect in a choke hold on the road as blood pours down his forehead.

A man holds the suspect in a choke hold on the road as blood pours down his forehead.

A man holds the suspect in a choke hold on the road as blood pours down his forehead.

Police said the driver’s motive was not immediately known, but that a preliminary investigation indicated drugs or alcohol may have been a contributing factor. 

A 35-year-old St. Paul man was booked into the Hennepin County Jail early Monday on suspicion of criminal vehicular homicide, driving after a license was canceled and providing false information to police.

The man, who hasn’t been formally charged, does not have a valid driver’s license because of multiple DUI convictions, according to online court records.

A witness told Minnesota Public Radio that the SUV was going very fast and appeared to accelerate to 100mph as it got closer to demonstrators who had blocked off a street. 

Knajdek is survived by her two daughters, ages 11 (left) and 13 (right). She is pictured on her 30th birthday two years ago

Knajdek is survived by her two daughters, ages 11 (left) and 13 (right). She is pictured on her 30th birthday two years ago

Knajdek was a recovering addict who would have celebrated her one-year anniversary of sobriety on Wednesday

Knajdek would have turned 32 on Wednesday

Knajdek was a recovering addict who would have celebrated her one-year anniversary of sobriety on Wednesday, along with her 32nd birthday

D.J. Hooker said the driver struck a car parked across one of the traffic lanes, sending that car flying. That car was said to have belonged to Knajdek.

‘There was one line of barriers and then a second barrier, and he sped up. He sped up. He went even faster as he approached us. You could hear it … start going even faster as he got close to us,’ Hooker said. He told Minnesota Public Radio News, ‘the car went through the air and it hit a young woman.’

Another witness, Brett Williams, said Knajdek was thrown into a stop light.

Her mother, Deb Kenney, asked for prayers for the driver’s family.

‘The emotion we need to have right now is we need to be grateful that Deona was here and she shared it all with us,’ Kenney said, according to KARE-11. ‘She wouldn’t want us to be angry at that man. She would have let it go in a minute, and said, what could we have done for him? What would have made a difference for him?’

She added: ‘She was here on her own accord, she chose to do this. She wanted to make that impact.”

Kenney said she hopes people don’t stop protesting because of her daughter’s death, but she said demonstrators should make sure they are staying safe.

‘We need to be very grateful that Deona was here and she shared it all with us, and she wouldn’t want us to be angry at that man. She would have let it go in a minute,’ Kenney said. 

She went on to say: ‘I would love people to remember her for the person she was. She was afraid of butterflies because she didn’t want to hurt them.’

They were demonstrating outside a parking garage where 32-year-old Winston Smith (pictured) was shot dead earlier this month after he pulled a gun and allegedly fired on US Marshals trying to arrest him on a warrant for possession of a firearm

They were demonstrating outside a parking garage where 32-year-old Winston Smith (pictured) was shot dead earlier this month after he pulled a gun and allegedly fired on US Marshals trying to arrest him on a warrant for possession of a firearm

Garrett said his sister had only recently returned to Minnesota from Georgia to reconnect with her two daughters. She worked as a project manager at The Cottages Group, which provides residential services to people struggling with mental illness and addiction. 

‘She’s such a wonderful person,’ said her brother. ‘She’s had struggle and hard times but she’s always pulled out of it, brought somebody back with her and brought them up and shown them the light of the world. Every aspect she’s ever done has been towards that.’

Knajdek’s employer posted on Facebook that she was ‘one of the most selfless people we have had the pleasure of knowing.’

The post continued: ‘she earned the respect and trust of those she served because of her true compassion for her work…She will be deeply missed by those she served and served with.’

Magnolia plants will be planted at all four of The Cottages Group’s location in Knajdek’s memory.  

A vigil was held on Monday in Knajdek’s honor at the scene of the deadly crash. Hundreds of mourners brought flowers and balloons after participating in a march through the neighborhood, demanding justice for the slain protester.   

There had been ongoing protests in Uptown, about 2 1/2 miles south of downtown Minneapolis, since the June 3 shooting of Smith Jr, a 32-year-old father of three, by members of a federal US Marshals Service task force.  

Near Calhoun Square in Minneapolis on Monday, protesters held a rally then marched in honor of Deona Knajdek

Near Calhoun Square in Minneapolis on Monday, protesters held a rally then marched in honor of Deona Knajdek

BLM protesters walked holding images of Winston Smith, whose killing on June 3 led to Sunday's protest that resulted in Knajdek's death

BLM protesters walked holding images of Winston Smith, whose killing on June 3 led to Sunday’s protest that resulted in Knajdek’s death 

Mourners lay flowers at the scene where Knajdek was killed on Sunday night in the Uptown section of Minneapolis

Mourners lay flowers at the scene where Knajdek was killed on Sunday night in the Uptown section of Minneapolis 

Courtney Amborst grieves for her friend Knajdek late Monday in Minneapolis

Courtney Amborst grieves for her friend Knajdek late Monday in Minneapolis

Nae Totushek lights candles in honor of Deona Knajdek in Minneapolis on Monday

Nae Totushek lights candles in honor of Deona Knajdek in Minneapolis on Monday

According to authorities, members of US Marshals were trying to arrest Smith on a warrant for allegedly being a felon in possession of a gun. The Marshals Service said in a statement that Smith, who was in a parked vehicle, didn’t comply with law enforcement and ‘produced a handgun resulting in task force members firing upon the subject.’ State investigators said evidence showed he fired the gun from inside his vehicle.

Smith died at the scene. A 27-year-old woman who was a passenger in Smith’s vehicle said she never saw a gun on Smith or in the vehicle, her attorneys said last week — contradicting authorities’ account about Smith’s actions.

Deb Kenney, Knajdek's mother, asked for prayers for the family of the driver who killed her daughter, but also called for justice

Deb Kenney, Knajdek’s mother, asked for prayers for the family of the driver who killed her daughter, but also called for justice  

Smith, who had racked up at least 20 arrests since 2007, has become a cause celebre for activists who have commandeered the roads where he was shot dead, setting up a shrine, like the one for George Floyd just three miles away. 

At around 11.40pm on Sunday, the driver sped into this area of Lake Street and S. Girard Avenue.

Footage captured by a protester shows the driver being held in a choke hold on the road as blood pours down his forehead.

The person filming shouts: ‘This n**** just came through 100 miles an hour, smashed this car and he just f***ing killed her.’

The camera pans to a badly damaged SUV across the street where a woman can be seen receiving treatment from other protesters.   

The suspect is seen being hauled around by a man who keeps his arm firmly around his neck.

As he pleads for police, the cameraman tells him: ‘You’re going down boy, you’re going down, it’s over. You bitch.’

The suspect replies: ‘I did not mean to.’ 

The scene is confusing and chaotic, and there initially appears to be no police presence and no paramedics to treat the woman on the ground.

The man filming the video and others seem to be shocked that they are having to keep the suspect prisoner and that police haven’t arrived.

After a few minutes a convoy of police cars rolls in and the suspect is handed over to them. 

The Uptown area includes a mix of trendy restaurants, shops and theaters popular with the city’s younger professionals, many of whom live in apartments and condominiums in the area.

The city of Minneapolis has been on edge since Floyd’s death under an officer’s knee and the more recent fatal police shooting of another black man, Daunte Wright, in a nearby suburb.

The Uptown neighborhood, like George Floyd Square, has been turned into a memorial to Smith. Roads are closed and anti-police graffiti covers the streets and buildings nearby.

Officers arrive in the area after a few minutes, setting up a crime scene and moving people back

Officers arrive in the area after a few minutes, setting up a crime scene and moving people back

Officers arrive in the area after a few minutes, setting up a crime scene and moving people back

Protesters painted the alleyway where Smith died last week with the writing: ‘Blood on their hands.’

Local residents and business owners say they are concerned that the neighborhood has become lawless.

On Sunday, the Juut Salon Spa, a fixture at the corner of Hennepin Avenue and Lake Street announced it was a closing after 35 years.

Posting on its Facebook page, the salon said: ‘It has become more and more evident that Uptown continues to struggle with store closings, social unrest, crime and street closures.

‘We would be heartbroken if anything were to happen to our team members or clients. With that at the forefront, we made this difficult decision.’    

Who is Winston ‘Boogie’ Smith? Latest talisman for activists is a convicted felon who pulled a gun and ‘fired on cops’ before he was shot dead

Winston Boogie Smith, pictured in a mugshot from December 2019, when he was arrested on warrant charging him with possession of firearms or ammunition as a felon, was shot dead by police Thursday

Winston Boogie Smith, pictured in a mugshot from December 2019, when he was arrested on warrant charging him with possession of firearms or ammunition as a felon, was shot dead by police Thursday

Winston ‘Boogie’ Smith was shot dead on June 3 by members of a US Marshals task force after pulling a gun and allegedly firing on them as they attempted to detain him for possession of a firearm. 

Marshals swooped on Smith on a federal warrant after he posted a picture of himself sitting in a car with a gun and a box of bullets – a probation violation. 

They approached him outside a parking garage at around 2pm in the Uptown neighborhood, just three miles away from George Floyd Square.

Smith, who was in a parked SUV, ‘produced a handgun resulting in task force members firing upon the subject,’ Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department said. Officers attempted to revive the suspect but he was pronounced dead at the scene. 

A woman who was riding in Smith’s SUV was injured by shattered glass and was taken into custody after being treated for minor injuries. 

According to court records, Smith had racked up at least 20 arrests since 2007 on charges ranging from minor traffic violations to drug and marijuana possession. In 2017, he was convicted of felony aggravated robbery, was handed a three-year stayed sentence and was put on probation.

Under the conditions of his probation, Smith was required to stay in regular contact with his probation officer, submit to random drug testing, find a job and possess no firearms. 

Winston Boogie Smith, 32, was shot and killed by members of a US Marshals task force in Minneapolis on Thursday

Smith, who was wanted for a probation violation, allegedly pulled a gun on officers

Winston Boogie Smith, 32, was shot and killed by members of a US Marshals task force in Minneapolis on Thursday. Smith, who was wanted for a probation violation, allegedly pulled a gun on officers 

The warrant for Smith's arrest was issued less than two weeks after he posted this photo on his public Instagram page

The warrant for Smith’s arrest was issued less than two weeks after he posted this photo on his public Instagram page

After posting an image of a gun and bullets on Instagram, a probation violation hearing was called on May 5. WCCO reported that when Smith failed to show up at the hearing, a warrant was issued for his arrest.   

It was not clear how many law enforcement officers fired their weapons during the incident.

A spokeswoman with the US Marshals said the US Marshals leads the task force that attempted the arrest, which is comprised of several agencies. 

Other agencies with personnel on the scene at the time of the shooting include sheriff’s offices from Hennepin, Anoka and Ramsey counties, the Minnesota Department of Corrections and the Department of Homeland Security. Minneapolis police played no role in the incident.

Officers who were involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave. 

The gunfire erupted on the fifth floor of a parking ramp at West Lake Street and South Fremont Avenue.  

A bartender from a nearby business told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that several of his patrons hear eight to 12 shots, and then saw officers grab the female passenger from the suspect’s vehicle.

A neighbor who lives across from the parking ramp told the paper she heard more than a dozen shots, followed by a pause, and then even more shots. 

Smith was a local hip hop artist who performed under the stage name ‘Wince Me Boi’ and also appeared in comedy videos.

In January 2020, he released a single dedicated to his children titled Goodbye.

Protesters set a dumpster on fire in response to Smith's killing, coupled with the dismantling of George Floyd Square in Minneapolis on Thursday

Protesters set a dumpster on fire in response to Smith’s killing, coupled with the dismantling of George Floyd Square in Minneapolis on Thursday 

An investigator goes through the scene where Smith was shot and killed by officers attempting to serve aa warrant on top of a parking ramp in Minneapolis on Thursday

An investigator goes through the scene where Smith was shot and killed by officers attempting to serve aa warrant on top of a parking ramp in Minneapolis on Thursday

Friends and relatives took to Facebook and Twitter to pay tribute to Smith as news of his killing spread.

A woman claiming to be Smith’s cousin wrote in a status update on Friday: ‘I swear u didn’t deserve this at all but #JUSTICE WILL BE SERVED AND YOUR LEGACY AND NAME WILL LIVE ON THROUGH US AND YOUR CHILDREN I HATE THEY TOOK U FROM UR KIDS S***S JUST NOT RIGHT CUZO. UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN FLY HIGH BABY.’

Earlier, the same woman reposted a status update that Smith had written back in April, which read: ‘I love yall I know my time is up so Ima miss y’all when I’m gone #Ripme.’

The heartbroken family member commented: ‘It’s like u knew it was coming or something…’ 

Tamara Wilson, who identified herself as Smith’s younger sister, accused law enforcement officials of trying to assassinate her brother’s character after taking his life. 

‘YOU TOOK MY BROTHER AWAY FROM US!!!’ she wrote in all capital letters on Facebook. ‘HIS KIDS, HIS SIBLINGS, HIS MOTHER!!!! THOSE STORIES ARE BS TRYING TO DEFY [sic] HIS CHARACTER. MY BROTHER WAS A COMEDIAN IN REAL LIFE!!! HE WAS CARING SMART AND LOVING!! I LOVE YOU SO MUCH Winston Smith SO VERY MUCH BIG BROTHER.’ 

Minneapolis police said news of the shooting sparked ‘numerous’ instances of vandalism and looting overnight.  

The shooting came after crews began dismantling concrete barriers around the so-called ‘autonomous zone’ of George Floyd Square, which were set up as a memorial after he was murdered in May 2020.

Protests had already broken out among activists angered by the removal of the shrine when news of the shooting in Uptown reached them.

The shooting took place three miles away from George Floyd Square in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis

The shooting took place three miles away from George Floyd Square in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis 

People soon gathered in Uptown, crowding around the crime scene and chanting anti-police slogans, before they barricaded off Lake Street and Girard Avenue where a dumpster was torched.

The trash receptacle eventually melted into a ‘puddle of fire,’ a TV reporter at the scene tweeted. Several dozen protesters were observed throwing more items into the dumpster to feed the blaze. 

It took police more than 40 minutes to respond and by the time they arrived cars and motorcycles had shown up to help protesters block off the streets, according to independent journalist Rebecca Brannon.   

Brannon filmed the moment police began ‘aggressively’ moving in on protesters, shooting tear gas into the intersection to clear them out. Firefighters were later filmed extinguishing the fire and cleaning up the intersection. 

Infighting and looting broke out across the city as the streets remained filled with protesters until the early hours of the morning. A T-Mobile store and a CVS pharmacy were among the shops raided by looters and officers were later deployed outside businesses to prevent further damage to property.

Vandals spray-painted buildings near the scene of the shooting with the words, ‘Kill cops’ and ‘No trial for them’, while others hurled abuse at officers calling them, ‘F***ing Nazis’ and ‘White supremacists.’ 





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Written by Bourbiza Mohamed

A technology enthusiast and a passionate writer in the field of information technology, cyber security, and blockchain

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