Iowa City man arrested for driving a car into protesters on Friday night

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Protesters marching in Iowa City, Aug. 21, 2020. — Anjali Huynh/Little Village

Late Tuesday afternoon, the Iowa City Police Department announced it had arrested a 45-year-old Iowa City resident for driving his car through a crowd of protesters gathered in the intersection of Gilbert and Burlington streets Friday night. Multiple people who had turned out for the march led by the Iowa Freedom Riders were struck by the car, but none were severely injured.

Michael Stepanek was taken into custody by ICPD officers on Tuesday and charged with two felonies: intimidation with a dangerous weapon and willful injury.

According to an ICPD news release: “This arrest was made possible by a victim, who was struck, coming forth and providing a statement to investigators.”

An ICPD officer in an unmarked vehicle recorded the license plate number of Stepanek’s grey Toyota Camry on Friday night after seeing him he speed away down Burlington Street. According to ICPD Spokesperson Sgt. Derek Frank, the officer was not aware at the time the driver had just gone through the intersection, striking more than one person. Frank said in a statement that it wasn’t until Saturday ICPD officers became aware of what happened at the intersection, after viewing a video that had been posted on social media Friday night.

According to the affidavit filed for the arrest warrant, “Bystander video shows the defendant honking, and eventually making a U-turn while squealing his tires to turn around. The def. shut off his lights, and drove around the block, where he chose to turn southbound on Gilbert St. where there were no vehicles between him and the protesters. The defendant intentionally struck multiple protesters with his vehicle and sped away eastbound on Burlington St. The defendant said the protesters needed ‘an attitude adjustment.’”

ICPD said in its news release on Tuesday the investigation into the incident is still ongoing and asked that anyone struck by the car that drove into protesters on Friday to contact the department.

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