By BILL HUTCHINSON, ABC News
(AURORA, Cold.) — A 23-year-old protester has been arrested for allegedly shooting two fellow demonstrators during the Black Lives Matter freeway protest near Denver that turned chaotic when an SUV came charging through the crowd.
Samuel Young was taken into custody Monday night at his home after a judge signed arrests warrants on four counts of attempted homicide, police said.
Young is suspected of opening fire with a handgun on Interstate 225 in Aurora on Saturday night when a Jeep drove through the large demonstration, nearly striking protesters, police said. Bullets believed to have been fired by Young grazed the head of one protester and hit another in the leg, according to the Aurora Police Department.
The gunfire broke out as demonstrators took to the freeway to demand justice in the 2019 police-involved death in Aurora of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black violinist.
“I not only find great concern with someone making the decision to drive their vehicle toward protesters on the interstate but that someone in the protester group opened fire, recklessly shooting two people,” Aurora Interim Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said in a statement.
Police said Young is the “person of interest” they had been seeking to interview and released images of him wearing a holstered handgun on his right hip while walking with protesters on the freeway. With the help of tips from witnesses and the community, police said they were able to identify Young as the curly-haired white man wearing glasses in the photos.
Officer Matthew Longshore, a spokesman for the Aurora Police Department, told ABC News that investigators made contact with Young earlier Monday and that he agreed to speak to them with his lawyer present.
But when Young failed to show up at the police department to tell his side of the story, prosecutors from the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office sought warrants for his arrest “based on the facts and probable cause provided” by the police, authorities said in a statement.
The shooting was one of several that occurred at protests across the country over the weekend, including one in Austin, Texas, that left a Black Lives Matter protester dead. The shooting also came three weeks after a driver barreled into a Black Lives Matter protest on a closed Seattle freeway, killing one demonstrator and leaving another seriously injured.
The Aurora episode unfolded around 7 p.m. on Saturday as protesters marched onto Interstate 225 in support of McClain, who died after Aurora police stopped him on a street and ended up putting him in a chokehold. McClain was listening to music and walking home after buying iced tea at a corner store on Aug. 24, 2019, when someone reported him as a “suspicious person” wearing a ski mask and waving his hands, authorities said.
The officers involved in McClain’s death were cleared of criminal wrongdoing by the district attorney for Colorado’s 17th Judicial District.
Earlier this month, Chief Wilson fired four Aurora police officers and a fifth resigned after photos surfaced of them mimicking the chokehold death near a memorial for McClain. One of the fire officers was involved in McClain’s death.
Police said protesters were walking northbound on Interstate 225 when a turquoise-colored Jeep drove toward the demonstration around 7 p.m.
“While the Jeep was being driven through the crowd, multiple shots were fired by a protester,” police in a statement.
Police said a protester in a car tried to prevent the driver from hitting demonstrators by ramming the side of the Jeep.
The Jeep continued to head north on Interstate 225 and the driver was stopped by police when he exited the freeway, officials said.
“During preliminary interviews with the Jeep driver, he advised officers that while on I-225, his vehicle began to be surrounded by protesters who were yelling and striking his vehicle,” police said in a statement. “He also claims that a white pickup truck struck the front of his vehicle. He claims that the reason that he drove towards the protesters is because he was scared and trying to get away.”
Investigators plan to present a case to the local district attorney, who will decide whether criminal charges will be filed against the driver, whose name was not released.
Police officials urged witnesses to come forward with video and photographs of the incident that could help them identify the person or persons responsible for the shooting. A $2,000 reward is also being offered by Crime Stoppers for information leading to an arrest.
Meanwhile, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said a preliminary investigation of the fatal shooting of protester Garrett Foster, 28, during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in downtown Austin on Saturday night indicates that Foster may have pointed an assault rifle at the driver of a vehicle before he was shot.
“Gunshots were fired from inside the vehicle at Foster,” Manley said in a statement issued Sunday night. “Someone else in the crowd opened fire on the car as it drove off.
Manley said both people who fired guns have been questioned and released pending further investigation. He said both people had concealed handgun licenses.
Foster’s mother disputed the police account of the shooting during an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America.
Sheila Foster said her son was pushing his fiancee’s wheelchair when he was gunned down.
“And this gentleman got out of his car and started firing shots, and my son was shot three times,” she said.
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