In testimony, Bakdash says he didn’t intend to kill

The jury is expected to begin deliberating Monday afternoon.

Timothy Bakdash

Timothy Bakdash

by Branden Largent

Timothy Bakdash took the stand at his murder trial Friday and admitted to hitting people, but said he wasn’t trying to kill them.

He said he was “extremely intoxicated,” on April 15, 2011 — the day Hennepin County prosecutors say he purposefully drove onto the curb and struck four pedestrians, killing University of Minnesota student Ben Van Handel.

He drank about 15 to 20 mixed drinks and three to five shots during the three hours he was at the Library Bar in Dinkytown before leaving with his friend around 1:50 or 2 a.m., Bakdash told the court.

Two of the bar’s assistant managers, Sam Buntrock, 26, and Erin Thompson, 31, testified Thursday they saw Bakdash in the bar that night. Buntrock said he saw Bakdash around 1 a.m. Both Buntrock and Thompson, who saw Bakdash at the Library a few times a month, said he looked sober that night.

Bakdash said he and a friend were walking to Bakdash’s car when a man wearing a blue shirt yelled at him, walked up to him and lightly slapped him on both sides of his face in the parking lot. When he later saw a man also wearing a blue shirt, he drove onto the sidewalk to “scare him,” thinking it was the same man who had mocked him, he told the court.

“There’s the guy,” Bakdash said to his friend.

Bakdash told the court his friend said, “Get him.”

He said he swerved out of the way, but still hit the man later identified as Aron James Epperson. A woman came up on his windshield, he said.

After hitting the girl, he said he fled the scene and drove home because he said he “got scared” and “didn’t want to get into trouble.”

During his testimony, Bakdash said he still believes Epperson was the man who mocked him in the parking lot. Epperson testified earlier last week he has never seen or spoken to Bakdash before.

 “I did not see a third and ultimately fourth person,” Bakdash said of the other two people he hit. The windshield cracked after hitting the first girl, so he had little visibility but “heard a couple sounds.” He said he had to stick his head out the window to see while driving home.

“I’m sorry to the families for what happened,” Bakdash said at the trial.

He said his friend jumped out of the car after Bakdash went through a stoplight a few blocks later. 

Hours later, he arrived on time to his shift at Professional Wireless and talked to his co-worker Kenneth Nelson, 36, about the incident but didn’t remember exactly what he told Nelson because he said he was still hungover and drunk.

Bakdash said he told Nelson “he deserved it,” in reference to hitting the man he thought mocked him in the parking lot.

“It was a stupid thing to say,” Bakdash said at the trial. “No one deserves to get hit by a car.”

After Nelson looked up news stories written about the hit-and-run and told Bakdash three people were injured and one was critically injured, Bakdash said, “It really didn’t make sense to me” because he only remembered hitting two people.

He said he gave the car to Brandon Bordeau and didn’t sell it to Bordeau, though Bordeau testified earlier in the week he bought the car from Bakdash for $1,500.

Bakdash said Bordeau asked for $500 to fix the car.

He later told Nelson that he was off his medications when he first told him he was involved in an accident, but Bakdash said he made it all up because he was trying to “buy more time” and get a lawyer.

During the cross examination, Hennepin County attorney William Richardson asked Bakdash if he killed Ben Van Handel.

“I did kill him, but it wasn’t intentional,” Bakdash said. “Not a day goes by that I don’t think about it.”

He did not see the other two people he hit, he said, but he did see and avoid a utility pole at the end of the sidewalk where he hit the four students.

Bakdash told the prosecution it was “not true” that he told Bordeau he intended to kill the victims during the incident.

 “I know it’s serious now,” he said. “I’m willing to pay for this, but I didn’t intend to kill anyone.”

The jury is expected to begin deliberations Monday for the first- and second-degree murder charges.