Tragedy has struck again in Seattle after a man plowed his car into two protesters who were part of group calling itself the Black Femme March that was blocking a freeway as part of the ongoing social justice protests in the area. One of the protesters, Summer Taylor, a white 24-year-old veterinary clinic worker, has died. The man driving the car, identified as Dawit Kelete, a black 27-year-old former Washington State University student, has been arrested. Washington State Patrol has since announced that they will no longer allow protests on the interstate and will arrest anyone who attempts to stage one.
The tragic incident was caught on video, which shows the vehicle driving at a high speed into the crowd of protesters and sending Taylor and the other protester, Diaz Love, a 32-year-old from Portland, flying into the air. Police say their initial investigation indicates that drugs and alcohol were not a factor.
According to authorities, the tragic incident occurred on Interstate 5 at around 1:40 a.m. on Saturday morning. As reported by ABC News, surveillance footage shows a white 2013 Jaguar driving at a high speed down the protester-blocked freeway, which the driver had reportedly entered by going the wrong way on an exit ramp. The vehicle swerves around cars blocking the lanes and plows directly into two protesters, sending them flying into the air, both landing violently on the pavement.
Kelete reportedly continued to drive for about a mile before another vehicle, driven by a protester, forced him to pull over. According to court documents, officers described Kelete as “reserved and sullen when he was arrested,” ABC 7 reports. He also reportedly asked if the two protesters were okay.
“Very candidly, we don’t know, at this point in the investigation, what the motive was, what the reasoning was,” said Washington State Patrol Capt. Ron Mead at a news conference hours later, as reported by ABC. According to the preliminary investigation, the driver does not appear to have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol, police said.
ABC7 reports that Kelete is listed in public records as having attended Washington State University between 2011 and 2017, majoring in business and commerce. Heavy notes that the jail booking described Kelete as “black,” having worked for DoorDash in 2015-2016, and “lists his language skills as including Tigrinya,” a language spoken in Eritrea and northern Ethiopia.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan (D) announced details of the ultimately fatal incident Saturday morning on Twitter.
“Early this morning two women were hit by a car and very seriously injured while peacefully protesting. Many others were almost hit and witnessed this horrific event. Our city stands beside their friends, families and loved ones in praying for these women and all who were there,” Durkan announced early Saturday. “No one should risk their life for demanding better from our city, state and country,” added Durkan, who has repeatedly defended the protests, even when things turned violent in the area of the city she allowed to be occupied for weeks. “Washington State Patrol is leading the investigation and they have assured us they are quickly and thoroughly investigating the incident. I have offered any city resources needed.”
On Sunday, Durkan responded to the tragic news that Taylor had died of her injuries. “My thoughts are with Summer Taylor, and their family and loved ones,” the mayor tweeted. “It is a life tragically lost far too soon, but their legacy will be the real change they marched for.”
Former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (CA) also took to Twitter to lament Taylor’s death. “Absolutely heartbreaking. Summer Taylor was only 24-years-old, peacefully protesting for Black Lives Matter when they were struck by a car,” she wrote. “Thinking of their family during this difficult time and everyone in the movement today.”
Absolutely heartbreaking. Summer Taylor was only 24-years-old, peacefully protesting for Black Lives Matter when they were struck by a car. Thinking of their family during this difficult time and everyone in the movement today. pic.twitter.com/i7hqkjSSMH
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) July 5, 2020
After the tragic incident, Washington State Patrol announced that they will no longer be allowing protesters to enter I-5 and will be arresting anyone who tries to walk on the interstate. “For the safety of all citizens including protesters and motorists, pedestrians walking on the freeway will be arrested,” the department tweeted late Saturday.
— WA State Patrol (@wastatepatrol) July 5, 2020
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