A 27-year-old man drove a white Jaguar onto a closed freeway in Seattle early Saturday and barrelled through a panicked crowd of protesters, injuring two women, officials said.
Dawit Kelete of Seattle drove the car around vehicles that were blocking Interstate 5 and sped into the crowd at about 1:40 a.m., 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 roadway.
Summer Taylor, 24, of Seattle and Diaz Love, 32, of Bellingham were in critical condition with multiple injuries, according to Harborview Medical Center spokeswoman Susan Gregg.
Love 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 tires and the sound of impact are heard. The Associated Press could not immediately reach her.
Video on social media showed the car striking two people.
The driver was in custody, Washington State Patrol Capt. Ron Mead said. Charges had not been filed as of Saturday morning.
Officials were trying to determine the motive as well as point of entry onto the interstate. Mead said Kelete was suspected to have driven the wrong way on a ramp. Mead said troopers did not know whether it was a targeted attack, but impairment was not considered a factor.
It was not immediately clear if Kelete had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
Seattle has been the site of prolonged unrest following the May 25 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 after authorities cleared the “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest” zone Wednesday morning.
Mead said at the press conference that protesters had shut down the interstate for 19 days in a row. He emphasized that the freeway is “simply not a safe place” for pedestrians, and said he hoped protesters would cease what he termed “unlawful behaviour” in blocking the interstate.
“My hope is, as a result of this tragedy, protesters will reconsider their desire to be on the interstate because I cannot guarantee their safety, plain and simple,” Mead said.
Protesters were on the freeway for more than an hour before the car drove around the blockade around 1:36 a.m., Mead said.
The state patrol tweeted out two pictures of the driver’s car, a white Jaguar with significant damage to its bumper and windshield.
Seattle police tweeted that they were assisting with the scene, as southbound lanes of the freeway remained closed for investigation.
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