Public Safety

Iowa City man faces charges of striking protesters with car

IOWA CITY — An Iowa City man who thought protesters needed an “attitude adjustment” is accused of striking one with his car, authorities said.

Michael R. Stepanek, 45, faces charges of intimidation with a dangerous weapon, a Class C felony; and willful injury causing bodily injury, a Class D felony. The two charges carry a potential 15-year prison sentence. He was taken into custody Tuesday.

According to Iowa City police and criminal complaints, around 8:45 p.m. last Friday, an officer in an unmarked squad car saw a car driving quickly eastbound on Burlington Street away from Black Lives Matter movement protesters who had been occupying the intersection of Burlington and Clinton streets. Police said the officer noted the vehicle’s license plate, but did not realize the car had just hit protesters. The officer was unable to pursue it due to traffic and pedestrians.

The following day, police learned of a video on Twitter showing multiple protesters who had been hit by a car in the intersection. Using the license plate information, officers tracked down the driver, who they identified as Stepanek.

Criminal complaints state Stepanek was eastbound on Burlington Street in his 1998 Toyota Camry when he became stuck behind other vehicles blocked by the protest. Police said video shows Stepanek honking before making a U-turn and “squealing” his tires.

Stepanek shut off his lights, drove around the block and turned onto Gilbert Street. He then hit “multiple” protesters and fled east on Burlington, police said.

In an interview with police, Stepanek said the protesters needed an “attitude adjustment,” according to the criminal complaint.

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One protester — who came forward to police — has been identified as a victim and police are searching for more. Anyone else who was struck was asked to call Investigator Mike Smithey at 319-356-5452.

Comments: (319) 339-3155; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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