Jonathan Benson, the man who hit a protester with his car in front of the Capitol during a demonstration on September 23, apparently bragged in January 2017 about doing the same thing on the night of Trump's inauguration, when protesters were demonstrating in downtown Denver.
"Protester chose the absolute wrong car to block, kick, and then corner while I was working last night," Benson wrote on his Facebook profile on January 21, 2017. "He wore my windshield nicely for a second and got 3 snowflake points for breaking my mirror in the process, but his participation ribbon will be coming in the form of hospital discharge papers and criminal charges."
According to Jay Casillas, a spokesperson for the Denver Police Department, Benson was listed as the victim in a police report connected to that January 2017 incident, which was listed as criminal mischief. No arrest was made in connection with that case, and Casillas declined to release more details owing to Benson's victim status on the report.
Benson's Facebook profile is riddled with posts about conspiracies, many of which focus on pedophile rings protected by politicians and the world's richest individuals, satanism, Freemasons and COVID trutherism. Benson also appears to be convinced that the Black Lives Matter movement is funded by George Soros and that George Floyd himself was somehow connected to the Freemasons.
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Benson, who declined Westword's interview request, spoke with Denver7 on September 24, telling a reporter about what had happened the previous night, and insisting he wasn't really aware of what he was turning into on Lincoln Street.
“I was driving to go pick up a client and I saw a commotion, I saw police lights at 14th and Lincoln and so when I was there, at the Capitol, I wasn’t really looking left, I was looking right to see the accident and by the time I turned, I started getting surrounded by people,” Benson told Denver7.
The protest over the decision of a grand jury in Louisville, Kentucky, not to charge any officers in connection with Breonna Taylor's death in March (one was indicted on a related charge) had started at the Capitol at 6 p.m. on September 23. More than three hours later, a few hundred people were at the Capitol when Benson turned left onto Lincoln Street from 14th Avenue, navigating his car around protesters who had set themselves up to block traffic. As more protesters began to confront Benson, he pulled to the right and slowed his car to a stop.
Videos taken by those present at the protest show what happened next.
"All you got to do is back up or be a fucking Nazi. Be a Nazi or back up, motherfucker," one person shouted.
Benson, who was driving a Volvo SUV, lowered his windows after a protester knocked on his passenger side window. "Don't touch my fucking car," Benson said. The guy who knocked on the window responded, "I don't care about your shitty BMW."
The person filming the encounter then asked, "What's going on?"
Benson responded, "You fucking tell me," then appeared to say, "I got to go."
"No one's moving," the man filming the scene responded.
Another person told the driver, "You can go in reverse." Benson answered: "No, I can't go in reverse."
Benson then accelerated slightly; his car moved forward about a foot before it stopped. Protesters started kicking and knocking his Volvo.
"Hey, back up before you get pepper-sprayed," shouted a protester.
Someone else yelled, "Hey, do you like bear mace? I've got some bear mace for you, dude."
The driver honked. "You're about to get sprayed, dude," a protester yelled.
A protester who had previously kicked the car then kicked the right side of the vehicle, leading Benson to look back. Benson then accelerated slightly.
At about that moment, in an action captured by a number of videos, a protester with an object that appeared to be a hammer smashed the driver's side of the windshield. After pausing for a second, Benson hit the gas and plowed ahead, with the object that resembled a hammer coming down a second time. A protester who had been positioned in front of the vehicle was struck and knocked over onto the sidewalk.
Police detained Benson not long after officers observed the incident on HALO cameras, then let him go without a citation after speaking with him. The investigation is ongoing, according to the Denver Police Department, which notes that it hasn't received any reports from anyone injured by the car.
“I had the intent to defend myself, that’s it,” Benson told Denver7. “I had no intention of hurting anybody, and I’m glad it was a bike that I ran over because I thought I ran somebody over. So I was glad that nobody got hurt.”
Benson also recorded a Facebook Live not long after he was released by Denver police.
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"Yo, I was just coming around the corner and I guess everybody can see what happened on FoxNews," Benson said from the front seat of his car, with police lights flashing nearby. "I like how one of the cops just pointed out that I was avoiding people. Yeah, I was just minding my own damn business. So anyway, I'm free now, but my windshield and my whole car is all beat up," he added, before flipping the camera to show the smashed windshield.
"Why are there protests again and why are people not allowing people to work and drive down the street? And trying to get in my car and try and hurt me. Yeah I’m going to hurt you back. Anyways, I'm going to go back to work," Benson said at the end of the video.
On September 24, Division Chief Ron Thomas held a press conference regarding the incident. “What we can see from the video is the individual in that car began to be threatened," he said. "I think that the vehicle was being kicked. And then that individual eventually kind of worked out of the situation and was chased by the protesters."
This marks the fourth time in as many months that drivers have either struck or endangered protesters or police on the scene of demonstrations in metro Denver. Two of those incidents took place in Denver; they both resulted in criminal charges for the drivers. One incident took place in Aurora on July 25, when a Jeep drove into a crowd of protesters that had gathered on I-225. Just hours before the Benson incident, D.A. George Brauchler announced that he had declined to file charges in that case.