Eyewitnesses are recounting the shocking scene they experienced after a man allegedly rammed his pick-up truck into a group of people in the city’s Logan Square neighborhood over the weekend.
As those witnesses share their stories, prosecutors are revealing new details about what they believe the man’s motives were, and his friends are calling the alleged attack a “cry for help.”
According to authorities, Timothy Nielsen, 57, is facing four counts of attempted degree murder after he allegedly drove his truck into a group of people who were having a picnic on Saturday afternoon. The group, who had their dogs with them, were reportedly celebrating a birthday party in the park.
Police say Nielsen “intentionally jumped a curb in his vehicle and drove at a group of pedestrians gathered for a picnic.”
Witnesses say that Nielsen targeted the group after an altercation over dogs rapidly escalated.
Troy Brown and several of his friends were picnicking in the area when the confrontation took place.
“This is a trauma we’re gonna have to live with for a while,” he said. “He backed his truck up 10-to-15 feet, cut his wheel hard, hit the gas and ran into where our stuff was.”
During the incident, a 42-year-old woman was pinned underneath of the vehicle, and it took at least 10 minutes for authorities to rescue the woman, according to eyewitnesses.
Bart Shore, a neighbor and a traffic reporter with NBC, happened upon the chaos while walking his own dog.
“You couldn’t miss him. He was yelling at the top of his lungs,” Shore said. “I heard when I came up and after he had run everyone over. He said ‘yuppies were taking over the neighborhood with their dogs.’”
Police were on the scene within minutes, according to witnesses, and Nielsen was arrested and taken into custody.
The incident isn’t the man’s first brush with the law. NBC 5 Investigates found that Nielsen was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to aggravated kidnapping in 1990.
A long-time friend says that Nielsen isn’t racist, as some had speculated after the attack, but that he is going through challenges in his life.
“He’s got a lot of problems. He’s struggling to make ends meet,” John Swinke said.
“All he wants is help. He’s crying out for help,” Nahomi Gonzalez, another friend of Nielsen’s, added.
Swinke says that the incident “is a shame,” and that he hopes the woman injured recovers quickly.
“It was a chain of events that led up to this, and he snapped and said some things he shouldn’t have said,” he said.
Brown says his friend, who was pinned underneath the truck, is now recovering at home, and he has little doubt that she will heal quickly.
“He made our bonds as friends stronger,” he said. “She’s so tough even if you told her she couldn’t run, she would try.”