WEST FARGO, N.D. — Authorities have released a video showing an incident where a man allegedly drove his vehicle into a protester during a demonstration in West Fargo on May 30.
Following the incident, Michael Charles Griffin, 47, of West Fargo, was charged in Cass County District Court with felony charges of aggravated assault and reckless endangerment.
Prosecutors alleged that Griffin hit Francisco Lopez III with his Subaru station wagon amid a crowd of protesters, drove with Lopez on the hood for three blocks and hit speeds of 45 mph before Lopez pushed himself off. Lopez's leg broke, though it is uncertain whether Griffin's vehicle tire or the fall caused the injury.
Griffin died Aug. 31 from natural causes after suffering from an unspecified illness, according to a statement released by the Aaland Law Office, which was defending Griffin in the criminal case.
The incident unfolded as thousands of protesters marched through the Fargo metro area in response to the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police.
The law office maintained that Lopez jumped onto the hood of Griffin's car and court documents indicate that interpretation of events was corroborated by at least one witness interviewed by police.
Following Griffin's death, the Cass County State's Attorney's Office released videos related to the May 30 encounter.
One video clip lasting about five seconds that was released by prosecutors shows a white car speeding down the road with an individual on its hood. It does not show how the individual came to be on the hood.
According to court documents, police said Griffin went around a blockade as he drove toward protesters near Main Avenue and 45th Street.
Lopez, who described the protesters as peaceful, testified in court that Griffin inched toward him with his vehicle as he and others told the defendant to turn around. The protester then said Griffin hit the gas about 3 feet from him, knocking Lopez off his feet before he landed on the hood.
The statement released by Griffin's defense said Griffin was trying to drive home from visiting friends — taking a route he thought would allow him to avoid protesters — when he was surrounded by “a violent mob” that prevented him from leaving. The statement claimed Griffin tried to steer around the protesters.
Griffin was hit in the face and struck by a water bottle, and his rear windshield was smashed, according to the statement. The statement claimed Lopez jumped on the hood and smashed Griffin’s window before the defendant “was able to flee from the violent crowd.”
Forum News Service reporter April Baumgarten contributed to this report.