Nicholas Kraus is a Saint Paul man accused of killing a woman by plowing his SUV into a protest in Minneapolis. Kraus has several previous DWI and other traffic offense convictions, according to Minnesota court records. The 35-year-old Kraus was detained by protesters at the scene of the June 13, 2021, incident, and taken into custody by police. Deona Marie Erickson was killed and three other people were injured, police said.
Kraus was charged on June 16 with second-degree murder, two counts of second-degree assault, providing false information to police, vehicular homicide and driving with a canceled license, according to Hennepin County jail records. Kraus, a convicted felon who has a criminal record dating back to 2004, including 18 different cases and arrests, could not be reached for comment by Heavy and it was not immediately clear if he has hired an attorney who could speak on his behalf. He was scheduled to appear in court on July 17.
Kraus is accused of ramming his SUV into a parked car about 11:40 p.m. as people gathered at Lake Street and Girard Avenue to protest the police shooting death of Winston Smith, according to a press release from Minneapolis Police. Prosecutors said Kraus was driving a Jeep SUV registered in another person’s name.
“This office is shocked by this level of violence in our streets,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a statement. “The defendant, Mr. Kraus, in the Uptown fatal incident in which he struck and killed a peaceful female protestor while intoxicated, and injured additional protestors, is an extreme and violent intentional act. His behavior and admittance to intentionally driving towards the protestors is one important reason why we have charged him with intentional second-degree murder.”
The Hennepin County Attorney’s office said Kraus was drunk at the time of the crash. The press release states, “When Kraus spoke to police after the fatal incident the following day, he admitted to driving his SUV in the Uptown area, and upon seeing the barricade, felt the need to ‘get over it.’ He also told police that he did not brake and accelerated in an attempt to jump the barricade despite seeing people, the complaint says. Kraus further stated that he thought he may hit someone as he was driving towards the barricade.” The full criminal complaint can be seen here.
According to Erickson’s brother, she had parked her car in a barricade to protect the protesters. Erickson’s brother, Garrett Knajdek, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune the SUV hit her parked car and sent the vehicle into his sister, causing fatal injuries. The Minneapolis Police Department released few details about the incident and said an investigation is ongoing. The Hennepin County medical examiner’s office has not yet released Erickson’s cause of death. The 31-year-old woman is survived by her two young daughters, her family says.
Here’s what you need to know about Nicholas David Kraus:
1. Witnesses Said Kraus Accelerated as He Approached a Blockade Protecting the Protesters & Then Tried to Run Away From His SUV After the Deadly Crash
The Minneapolis Police Department said in a statement, “At 11:39 pm on Sunday evening, Minneapolis Police were monitoring a protest in the area of West Lake Street and Girard Avenue South when they observed, on camera, a vehicle traveling eastbound on Lake Street and drive into a group of protesters. Additional squads were called to the scene as were several ambulances. Protesters pulled the suspect from the vehicle and, from reports of witnesses, began to strike the driver. Officers arrived and took custody of the driver. Crime Lab personnel responded to document the scene and collect evidence. Homicide detectives are involved and working with the Minneapolis Police Department’s Traffic Investigative Unit. Preliminary investigation indicates that the use of drugs or alcohol by the driver may be a contributing factor in this crash.”
According to a press release from the county attorney’s office, “Another victim who sustained injuries told police that Kraus’ SUV came barreling towards the group of protestors and hit one of the barricade vehicles with such force that it was pushed back into the group of bystanders, the complaint continues. The victim also told police that Kraus began accelerating as he neared the makeshift barricades and pedestrians, the complaint states. Surveillance video from the area further corroborates this record.”
Witnesses disputed the police department’s statement that Kraus was pulled from the car by protesters, saying he exited the SUV on his own and tried to flee from the scene before he was detained and turned over to police. Protesters also criticized the response time from police and ambulances.
A witness tweeted, “A protester got hit by a car and 10 squad cars showed up with cops in riot gear before a single ambulance. Street medics performed CPR and resuscitated her. Community apprehended the driver. Cops just showed up and threatened everyone with mace, arrests, and rubber bullets.”
Activist Aisha Chugtai tweeted, “In the immediate aftermath, street medics + protesters jumped into action—apprehending the driver and administering emergency first-aid. By contrast, an ambulance arrived long after police reinforcements in riot gear. The people took care of one another—the police did not.”
Witness Zachariah Hill-Smith told KSTP-TV, “He sped up and went like 80 miles an hour and he smacked the car so hard it flipped. And the guy jumped out and started running and everybody chased him and grabbed him. No one deserves to go out like that. No one. It hurts, it really, really does hurt a lot to see a good person die the way she died.”
Another witness, DJ Hooker, told Minnesota Public Radio, “A car came at us going like 70 or 80 miles an hour. 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.” He said the SUV hit a parked car, and “The car went through the air and it hit a young woman.”
The Minneapolis Police said in its press release, “Anyone with information is encouraged to call CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). Tips may be submitted electronically at http://www.CrimeStoppersMN.org. All Tips are anonymous and persons providing information leading to an arrest and conviction may be eligible for a financial reward.”
2. Kraus Has Been Convicted of Driving While Intoxicated 5 Times & Had a Warrant Out for His Arrest for Violating Probation
Kraus has several driving while intoxicated and other traffic offenses on his criminal record in Minnesota dating back to 2007, according to online records viewed by Heavy. He was convicted of DWI twice in 2007, again in 2009, in 2012 and in 2016. A sixth DWI charge, in 2013, was dismissed as part of a careless driving plea. His 2012 and 2016 DWI charges were both felonies.
Kraus has also been convicted of speeding, driving with no proof of insurance, driving without a license and twice of driving with a canceled license. In 2018, he was sentenced to a year of probation and 10 days in the McLeod County jail after pleading guilty to driving with a canceled license. He was given credit for two days served and was allowed to serve the remainder of the jail time on weekends.
Kraus was wanted on a warrant for violating his probation stemming from his 2016 DWI arrest. He was sentenced in that felony case in 2017 to 244 days in jail, with credit for 244 days he had already served at the Anoka County Jail, along with a stayed prison sentence of seven years. He was placed on probation for seven years.
The probation violation was filed on November 10, 2020, and there is no record of him being arrested on that warrant. According to court documents, the violation accuses Kraus of failing to have no use of mood-altering chemicals, failure to have no use of alcohol, failure to complete a chemical dependency evaluation within 30 days, failure to follow all state and county laws and failure to complete 10 days of home electronic monitoring.
3. Kraus Was Accused of Smothering His Girlfriend With a Pillow & Threatening to Throw Her Over the Top Railing of the House During a 2015 Domestic Assault Incident
Nick Kraus has several other non-driving related arrests on his criminal record. He was convicted in 2004 of fifth-degree assault, in 2006 of falsely reporting a crime and in 2015 of misdemeanor obstruction of legal process. In that 2015 case, charges of domestic assault and interference with a 911 call were dropped.
According to court documents, Kraus’ girlfriend and mother of his two children accused Kraus of holding a pillow over her face, briefly causing her breathing to be restricted. His girlfriend told police Kraus “state he would take care of her jaw if she continued to run her mouth and threatened to throw her over the top railing of the house.” She also told police Kraus held her down on a couch and took her cell phone away so she couldn’t call 911. The responding officers also said Kraus resisted arrest.
In 2016, a charge of fleeing from police was dropped as part of a DWI guilty plea. His most recent arrest was in Anoka County in June 2020, when he was charged with giving a false name to a police officer. He was found guilty of that charge and was sentenced to 45 days in jail, with 43 days suspended and credit for two days served. Kraus initially gave police his brother’s name and later said he lied because he had a warrant for his arrest, according to court documents.
According to his Facebook pages, Kraus is a father of two children and has worked as a contractor and handyman and at an auto body shop. He attended Harding High School in St. Paul, he said on Facebook. He was married as of 2016, but it was not immediately clear if he was still with his wife.
4.Kraus Is Being Held at the Hennepin County Jail on $1 Million Bail
Kraus is being held at the Hennepin County Jail on $1 million bail, online records show. The jail record shows Kraus was arrested by Minneapolis Police and booked at 4:17 a.m. on June 14. His street address is not listed in the records, but his city is listed as St. Paul, Minnesota.
After his arrest he was initially held on probable cause of criminal vehicular homicide, driving after his license was canceled for being “inimical to public safety” and giving false information to police. The formal charges were added on June 16.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said in a statement, “The right to peacefully assemble and protest is a cornerstone of our democracy. Last night’s tragic events resulted in the loss of a community member exercising that fundamental right and the injury of several others. We are keeping the victim’s family and friends close as they grieve the loss of a loved one.”
5. Deona Marie Erickson’s Mother Says They Will Be Praying for Kraus Because That’s What She Would Have Wanted
Erickson’s mother, Deborah Marie Kenney, wrote on Facebook, “Here is my beautiful, brave, funny everything daughter Deona Marie . Today she was taken from us while supporting another families cause. The details are in the news and on social media which I have not watched. It has only been 2 hours from the notification and it already feels like a life time. God has you now sweet Poke. I love you too the stars and back abagazillion times.”
She told reporters on Monday about Kraus, “The gentleman that was also in this incident, he needs to live with this for the rest of his life and so does his family. So we want to pray for that family as well, even though we are angered by his choice to make his impression like this on other people. I just want people not to be angry because of that. Because the emotion we need to have right now is 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.”
Garrett Knajdek, told KARE-TV, “She was probably the most wonderful person you could ever imagine. She would in the most literal sense tear the shirt off her back to make sure someone was warm. No matter how dark her life was and how bad things got, she was doing everything she could to take care of somebody else and provide for them.” He said he is, “still trying to process the fact that my sister, my lifelong friend is gone.”
Erickson was born in Pine City, Minnesota, and lived in Minneapolis, where she worked at The Cottage Group, a home health care service, as a project manager, according to her Facebook page.
The Cottages Group wrote on Facebook, “Today The Cottages Group lost a member of their management team, Deona Erickson. We are shocked and deeply saddened by the news of her passing. She was a Program Manager who dedicated her time to overseeing two of our community residential sites, she put her heart into her work. She was one of the most selfless people we have had the pleasure of knowing, 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. Our prayers go out to the family, friends and those who had the pleasure of knowing such a kindhearted woman.”
Erickson recently posted on Facebook on June 12, “This coming up week we shall forever call ‘Deona In The Making week.'” She included a photo of a calendar with Wednesday, June 16, marked down as her 32nd birthday and Friday, June 18, as the celebration of being sober for one year.
Erickson wrote about Smith on June 12, “Today my heart is with your family, friends, your children and other loved ones.. Today you get to rest… you wanted to see a change and I really think you were the man to start that change.. I’m sorry… 💔 but we ARE going to get change for you and all the others, we will get justice, you changed the world while you were here and in your name a lot more change is still to come. Rest in Power Winston Smith.”
She posted often about participating in Black Lives Matter protests. On June 10 she wrote on Facebook, “You protested because it was trendy and ‘everyone was doing it’ I protest because people are out here dying‼️ I promise you we are NOT the same.”