Mental health evaluation ordered for suspect charged with murder in Uptown crash

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The driver charged with killing a woman and injuring others at a protest in Minneapolis’ Uptown neighborhood will be examined to determine whether he is mentally competent to be prosecuted in the case.

Nicholas D. Kraus, 35, of St. Paul made his first appearance Thursday afternoon in Hennepin County District Court on charges of second-degree murder with intent and two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon.

Kraus ap- peared via Zoom from the county jail, where he was dressed in a protective green vest commonly used for inmates who pose a safety risk to themselves.

Kraus’ attorney, Bryan Leary, requested a mental health evaluation to determine whether Kraus is competent, which was ordered by Hennepin County District Judge Kerry Meyer. The findings are expected in August.

Kraus is being held in lieu of $1 million bail, which was not argued during the brief hearing.

Krause is charged with killing Deona M. Knajdek, 31, and injuring two others on Sunday as they protested on W. Lake Street at Girard Avenue. The victims and others were protesting the June 3 officer-involved fatal shooting of Winston Boogie Smith Jr. A U.S. Marshals Service task force was attempting to arrest Smith for allegedly possessing a gun illegally when Smith and two sheriff’s deputies exchanged gunfire, authorities have said.

Prosecutors have said Kraus was intoxicated at the time; his blood alcohol content was pending at the time of charging. Kraus has been convicted of drunken driving five times, and has been convicted of driving without a license, assault and giving police a false name. His license was canceled in 2013.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman has said there is no current evidence to suggest that Kraus’ actions were motivated by bias.

According to the charges against Kraus: Witnesses told police they saw an SUV accelerating as it approached the protesters. The SUV struck Knajdek’s vehicle, which had been parked as a barricade. Knajdek’s vehicle then struck her and the other victims.Kraus allegedly told police he sped up in an attempt to vault his vehicle over Knajdek’s car.

Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708

Twitter: @ChaoStrib

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