Pickup driver charged for actions during BLM protest
MANCHESTER — The driver of the truck who drove through kneeling protesters in the town roundabout during a Black Lives Matter protest June 7 has been charged in the case.
Dustin F. Tobin, 29, of Pawlet was charged with negligent operation and recklessly endangering another person, both misdemeanors.
Manchester Police Officer Ryan Matteson said the charges are the result of Tobin driving into the opposing lane of travel to get around stopped traffic as he entered the roundabout and then driving into the roundabout occupied by protesters.
Matteson said Tobin was upset the road was blocked.
"He advised us that he was trying to get through," Matteson said. "He seemed frustrated with the people being in the roadway.
He advised he was trying to navigate through safely. I would argue that you can't do that with people in the roadway."
Tobin was accused by protesters of also driving around the roundabout at high speeds while signaling his displeasure with the protest with a hand gesture.
At one point, protesters said he drove up on the median in the middle of the circle where protesters were standing.
Matteson said videos of the incident didn't clearly show if the truck was on the median.
"Video evidence shows him going around a couple of times and based on witness statements a few people said he went up on the curb, but I couldn't really see that on the video," Matteson said.
Several messages offering Tobin the chance to give his side of the events resulted in only one reply, "no comment," via Facebook Messenger.
Matteson said Tobin was cooperative at the scene and during the investigation and came turned himself in when officers decided to file charges.
"At the scene, we told him we would be doing our investigation and he said he understood," Matteson said. "I had been in contact with him over the phone and when I called him on the phone [with word about charges] and he came down."
According to an MPD press release, Manchester Police Officers responded to multiple calls of protesters blocking the roundabout about 5:30 p.m. June 7.
When officers arrived at the roundabout at the intersection of Depot Street and Main Street, officers found about 30 people kneeling in the roadway.
The protesters cleared the road within 30 seconds of the officer's arrival.
But while there, many of the protesters told officers about a truck that drove through the roundabout while protesters were still in the road.
There were no injuries.
The driver of the truck, Tobin, had waited at the scene to speak with the officers.
Through interviews and video evidence "officers determined that the operator Dustin F. Tobin operated his motor vehicle on a public highway in a negligent manner. Tobin's actions were also determined to be reckless in nature and placed another person in danger of death or serious bodily injury."
Matteson said they received written statements from a half dozen witnesses and talked to many more than that as well as viewed cell phone videos and surveillance video from a nearby business.
The evidence was presented to Bennington County State's Attorney Erica Marthage who recommended the charges.
Matteson said no protesters were cited.
He said when he and Cpl. Chris Mason arrived on the scene a protester told Mason there were 30 seconds left in the planned 8-minutes, 46-second protest in the roadway.
"We shifted our focus to making sure no cars came through and they left the road," Matteson said.
Matteson said the protesters' actions could have resulted in disorderly conduct charges but nobody was cited.
Matteson said there were differing views of what happened and it was important to consider all of those accounts before deciding on charges.
"Perception is reality," Matteson said. "There were people with different accounts. Just because of the number of people, we really wanted to do a thorough investigation into the allegations. We wanted to collect as much evidence as possible. That's why we didn't immediately make an arrest that day."
Tobin was cited to appear in Bennington County Superior Court, Criminal Division at 8:15 a.m. Aug. 3 to answer to the charges.
Contact Darren Marcy at firstname.lastname@example.org or by cell at 802-681-6534.
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