Charges expected for Seattle driver who hit protesters
Prosecutors plan to decide on charges against the man who hit two protesters with his car while driving on a Seattle freeway that was closed for Black Lives Matter demonstrations
Prosecutors plan to decide Wednesday on charges against the man who hit two protesters with his car, killing one, while driving on a Seattle freeway that was closed for Black Lives Matter demonstrations.
Dawit Kelete, 27, drove around vehicles that were parked on Interstate 5 to protect the protesters, hitting two people at about 1:40 a.m. Saturday, according to the Washington State Patrol.
Summer Taylor, a 24-year-old veterinary clinic worker, suffered critical injuries and died Saturday night. Diaz Love, 32, from Portland, Oregon, was hospitalized in serious condition. In a note posted on Facebook late Sunday, Love reported being “alive and stable.”
“In a lot of pain. I cannot believe Summer was murdered,” the post said. “If they thought this murder would make us back down, they are very wrong. Very wrong.”
A judge ordered Kelete held in custody on an investigation of vehicular assault. The King County prosecutor’s office said it was reviewing investigation documents and would decide on charges by Wednesday afternoon.
The driver is being held on a $1.2 million bail. Kelete’s lawyer, John Henry Browne, said his client, who is Black, did not intentionally hit the protesters. He said the crash was a “horrible, horrible accident.”
“There’s absolutely nothing political about this case whatsoever,” Browne told The Associated Press. “My client is in tears. He’s very remorseful. He feels tremendous guilt.”
Kelete is originally from Eritrea, in northeastern Africa, and is a U.S. citizen, Browne said. He lives with his parents in Seattle, and they’re very religious, he said. Kelete was the owner of the Jaguar XJL and was alone in the car, according to the state patrol.
The protesters screamed and scattered as the car approached. A graphic video shows the vehicle approaching at a high rate of speed. It appeared to swerve slightly as it came toward two people still in the road. The car slid sideways as it hit the two protesters, sending them into the air. The driver slowed and turned on his flashers just after impact, and then drove away.
He was followed by one of the protesters, who was able to stop Kelete’s car by driving in front of him until state troopers arrived. Kelete agreed to take a field sobriety test for drugs and alcohol. The tests showed he was not impaired, the state patrol said.
“The driver was reserved and appeared sullen throughout his time in custody,” Trooper James McGuire wrote in the arrest report. “At one point he asked if the injured pedestrians were okay.”
Seattle has been the site of prolonged unrest following the May police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which sparked nationwide protests.
The state patrol had closed a section of I-5 for 19 days in a row because of the protesters, troopers said. Going forward, officials said they won’t allow protesters to enter I-5 and will arrest pedestrians on the freeway.