Man Who Allegedly Drove Car Into Seattle Demonstration, Killing Protester, Charged With Homicide


A man who allegedly struck Black Lives Matter protesters in Seattle with his car, killing one, was charged with reckless driving, vehicular assault and vehicular homicide by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office on Wednesday. Washington State Patrol and the FBI are investigating the case, a prominent and fatal example of recent car attacks on demonstrators.

When protesters gathered for a Black Femme March on Interstate 5 on July 3, it was the 19th consecutive night activists had done so, according to the state patrol. Near midnight, the patrol closed a section of the interstate for the demonstration. After 1 a.m., a white Jaguar, seen on security video entering the highway through an off-ramp, drove through the group at high speed, authorities said.

The car struck two people – Summer Taylor, a 24-year-old Seattle resident, and Diaz Love, 32 – then fled the scene, speeding down the highway. Troopers arrested the driver, who they identified as 27-year-old Dawit Kelete.

After Kelete left the car, according to the charging document, he asked: “Are they OK?” The state patrol said Kelete did not appear impaired at the time of the attack; a breath test for alcohol was negative.

Taylor, a veterinary worker, died later Saturday at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center.

“My thoughts are with Summer Taylor, and their family and loved ones. It is a life tragically lost far too soon, but their legacy will be the real change they marched for,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, a Democrat, said in a statement posted to Twitter.

Love, the other person struck by the car, was hospitalized with internal injuries and fractured arms and legs. In a post to Facebook published Sunday night, which is no longer public, Love wrote: “I’m alive and stable. In a lot of pain. I cannot believe Summer was murdered. If they thought this murder would make us back down, they are very wrong. Very wrong.” Love, who live-streamed the protest from the highway, said people had been sending them death threats through the social network.

The state patrol said it will no longer allow protesters on the interstate and vowed to arrest anyone walking there.

A King County judge set Kelete’s bail at $1.2 million on Monday. He remains in custody and is scheduled to be arraigned on July 22.

John Henry Browne, the defense attorney who represents Kelete, told the Associated Press that Kelete, who is black, was sorry and did not have political motivations. “My client is in tears. He’s very remorseful. He feels tremendous guilt,” Browne told the AP. Browne did not respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post.

This was not the only recent peaceful protest thrown into panic when motorists plowed into demonstrators. Video captured in Bloomington, Ind., on Monday shows people clinging to the front of a red Toyota sedan as the car accelerated through a Black Lives Matter protest. Two were injured, Bloomington police said.

Since George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis on Memorial Day, drivers have attacked people more than 65 times, including seven incidents in which law enforcement officers were at the wheel, Ari Weil, an expert on terrorist tactics at the University of Chicago, told the New York Times.

Violent memes that celebrate car attacks on protesters, meanwhile, have spread through social media. After the car hit protesters in Seattle, a detective in the King County sheriff’s office published posts on Facebook disparaging the injured demonstrators.

Authorities have not released the images, citing an ongoing internal investigation. But one post, according to Seattle’s KOMO News, shows a cartoon truck striking stick figures beneath the caption “all lives splatter.”

The sheriff’s office placed the detective, Mike Brown, on administrative leave and suspended his police powers. The investigation is examining whether other employees reacted to or commented on the posts, per a statement from the office.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, who is Brown’s cousin, wrote on Twitter he was “deeply disappointed” in the detective.

“The language is unacceptable and just flat wrong,” Inslee said, “particularly from a law enforcement officer, as we try to heal the divisions of our community.”

(c) 2020, The Washington Post · Ben Guarino  



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