A car drove onto a closed road and ploughed into people in a Black Lives Matter protest in Seattle on Saturday 4 July. The driver killed one protester and critically injured the other, authorities have said.
Summer Taylor, 24, of Seattle died in the evening at Harborview Medical Centre, spokesperson Susan Gregg said.
Officials said the car barrelled through a panicked crowd of protesters on Interstate 5 (I-5) in the early hours of 4 July, hitting Taylor along with Diaz Love, 32, of Portland.
Dawit Kelete of Seattle drove the car around vehicles that were blocking the I-5 and sped into the crowd at about 1:40am, according to a police report released by the Washington State Patrol. Video taken at the scene by protesters showed people shouting “Car! Car!” before fleeing the road.
Love is in serious condition in Harborview’s intensive care unit, Gregg said. She was filming the protest in a nearly two-hour-long Facebook livestream captioned “Black Femme March takes I-5” when the video ended abruptly. With about 15 seconds left, shouts of “Car!” can be heard as the camera starts to shake before screeching tyres and the sound of impact are heard.
A graphic video posted on social media showed the white Jaguar racing toward a group of protesters who are standing behind several parked cars, set up for protection. The car swerves around the other vehicles and slams into the two protesters, sending them flying into the air.
Seattle Fire units transported two females estimated to be in their 20s to Harborview from this incident. One patient is in critical condition and the other is in stable condition. https://t.co/TmrYY1xBMS
— Seattle Fire Dept. (@SeattleFire) July 4, 2020
A protester chased after the driver, leading to his arrest
The driver, who was alone, fled the scene after hitting the protesters, Trooper Chase Van Cleave said. According to Van Cleave, one of the other protesters got in a car and chased the driver for about a mile. He was able to stop him by pulling his car in front of the Jaguar.
Troopers arrived, and the driver was put in custody, Washington State Patrol Captain Ron Mead said.
Kelete was described by offices as reserved and sullen when he was arrested, according to court documents. The documents say he also asked if the pedestrians were OK. He was booked into the King County Correctional Facility on two counts of vehicular assault. Bail was denied.
A judge found probable cause to hold Kelete on an investigation of vehicular assault. He faces a second court hearing on Monday 6 July at which the judge will determine if he can be released on bail, according to court documents. It was not immediately clear if Kelete had a lawyer who could speak on his behalf.
Officials were trying to determine the motive as well as where Kelete got onto the interstate, which had been closed by the state patrol for more than an hour before the protesters were hit. Capt Mead said they suspect Kelete drove the wrong way on a ramp.
Trooper Rick Johnson said the driver went through a barrier that closed the road. Troopers didn’t know whether it was a targeted attack, but impairment was not considered a factor, Capt Mead said.
The Washington State Patrol said that going forward it will not allow protesters to enter I-5 and would arrest pedestrians on the road.
Seattle has been the site of prolonged unrest following the 25 May police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which sparked nationwide protests. Dozens of people were arrested this past week in connection with protests as demonstrations continue. This happened after authorities cleared the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest Zone (CHAZ) on the morning of Wednesday 1 July.
Protesters had shut down the interstate for 19 days in a row, Capt Mead said at a press conference. The State Patrol responded by closing sections of the interstate to keep drivers and protesters safe.
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