One person is dead and another is in critical condition after a car drove onto a closed highway in Seattle and plowed into two protesters early Saturday morning.
Summer Taylor, 24, of Seattle, died Saturday night at Harborview Medical Center. Diaz Love, 32, of Portland, Oregon, was in critical condition in the hospital’s intensive care unit, according to spokesperson Susan Gregg.
Both women were struck by a white Jaguar automobile on Interstate 5 around 1:30 a.m. local time. The freeway was closed, and there was a Black Lives Matter protest happening on the highway.
Graphic video shows the car swerve around a van parked in the middle of the highway and then hit the two women. Love was livestreaming the protest on Facebook, which she captioned: “Black Femme March takes I-5.”
The suspect, Dawit Kelete of Seattle, fled the scene after mowing down the protesters on the I-5 highway. A protester chased the driver in their car and stopped him by pulling his car in front of Kelete’s vehicle.
The driver was later apprehended by police, booked into King County Correctional Facility, and charged with two counts of vehicular assault.
Kelete, 27, was not impaired according to officials, who are unsure if this was a targeted attack.
Authorities had closed the freeway more than an hour before the incident, and officials aren’t sure how Kelete accessed the highway. Protesters had shut down the highway for 19 consecutive days up until Friday night, according to Washington State Patrol Capt. Ron Mead.
Mead stressed that the freeway is “simply not a safe place” to hold protests.
“The WSP is exercising the safest means possible to avoid injuries or worse to motorists, protesters, WSDOT personnel and our troopers by closing the roadway as needed and separating protesters and vehicular traffic,” Mead said. “But … the freeways are an inherently dangerous place for any pedestrian, and that is especially so for those assembling illegally on them. The WSP continues to support the rights of peaceful protesters, but the interstate is not a safe place to do that.”
The Washington State Patrol’s official Twitter account said that protestors would no longer be allowed to enter I-5, and wrote, “For the safety of all citizens including protesters and motorists, pedestrians walking on the freeway will be arrested.”
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan tweeted, “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.”
Protesters in Seattle observed Taylor’s death by having five minutes of silence.