By BILL HUTCHINSON and MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News
(SEATTLE) — A 27-year-old man arrested on suspicion of barreling into a Black Lives Matter protest on a closed Seattle freeway, killing one demonstrator and seriously injuring another, was charged Wednesday with vehicular homicide, vehicular assault and reckless driving, authorities said.
The King County prosecuting attorney filed charges against Dawit Kelete in the deadly incident early Saturday on Interstate 5 in Seattle, according to court documents.
Charges could be added as the investigation continues, authorities said.
Protester Summer Taylor, 24, was pronounced dead at a local hospital hours after Kelete allegedly drove his white Jaguar onto a closed section of the interstate where ongoing demonstrations have been occurring, and slammed into Taylor and another protester, Diaz Love, 32, who was seriously injured, police said.
Love suffered multiple leg and arm fractures, and remained hospitalized for at least four days after the crash, according to the charging documents.
Surveillance video captured the 2013 Jaguar apparently speeding down the freeway, swerving around cars supporting the protest that were blocking the lanes, and striking Taylor and Love, who were walking on the shoulder. The blow knocked them into the air, over the roof of the vehicle, and onto the pavement.
According to the charging documents, Kelete allegedly did not slow down as he drove on the shoulder.
The incident unfolded at about 1:40 a.m. when the driver allegedly entered the closed freeway by going the wrong way on an exit ramp, and drove at high speed toward a crowd of people protesting the police-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, authorities said.
State police said the Jaguar continued to drive south on the freeway and was chased by a protester in a car for about a mile before the car managed to get in front of the Jaguar. According to a police report released by prosecutors, the driver of the Jaguar was able to steer around the protester’s car and keep going.
After the crash, Seattle police and Washington state police officers quickly located the suspected hit-and-run car and pulled it over, according to the report. The vehicle sustained heavy front-end damage and a shattered windshield, authorities said.
Kelete, who was identified as the driver and registered owner of the car, was given field sobriety tests and volunteered to take a Breathalyzer test at the scene, according to the report.
“It was determined the driver was not impaired,” court documents said. “The driver was sullen throughout his time in custody. At one point, he asked if the injured pedestrians were okay.”
He denied taking any medication, according to the charging documents. Later, Kelete allegedly told jail personnel that he struggles with an untreated Percocet addiction, the documents said.
The results of a blood test approved several hours after the crash are pending. A substance that “appears similar to crystal methamphetamine” recovered from Kelete’s car is also pending testing, according to the charging documents.
Kelete is expected to enter a plea at his arraignment on July 22.
Police are still investigating a motive for the attack.
Kelete, who was described in the police report as Black, was initially arrested on suspicion of vehicular assault. He appeared in court on Monday and a judge set his bail at $1.2 million.
Taylor was pronounced dead after being taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Love, of Bellingham, Washington, remains in serious condition with multiple broken bones, police said.
Love had been broadcasting the protest for about two hours on Facebook Live under the caption “Black Femme March takes I-5.” The video ended abruptly after someone was heard yelling, “Car!”
In the aftermath of Saturday’s incident, protesters in New York and Indiana were struck and injured by drivers who authorities say appeared to deliberately target demonstrations.
A demonstrator in Bloomington, Indiana, and two others in Huntington Station, on New York’s Long Island, were hurt Monday evening during peaceful protests, police said. The driver who allegedly ran over two people in New York was arrested, while police were still searching Wednesday afternoon for the operator of a red car and her male passenger who fled following the Indiana incident.
Several hundred protesters had gathered in downtown Bloomington Monday to demonstrate in support of Vauhxx Booker, a Black civil rights activist and a member of the Monroe County, Indiana, Human Rights Commission, who said he was attacked on the Fourth of July by a group of white people who shouted racial slurs and called for someone to “get a noose.” The Indiana Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement is investigating the attack, which was caught on cellphone video and has gone viral since being posted on social media.
Booker was let go after a group of people intervened.
The Long Island incident occurred at around 6:45 p.m. Monday during a Black Lives Matter protest in Huntington Station.
Suffolk County Police said they arrested the driver, Anthony Cambareri, 36, of Coram, New York, after he drove into the protesters as they participated in a demonstration on the street. The two victims were taken to Huntington Hospital and treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
Cambareri sped away, but police caught him a short time later, authorities said.
He was arrested on charges of third-degree assault and was issued a desk appearance ticket. He will be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip at a date yet to be determined.
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