Police Seeking Motive After Driver Hits Protesters, Killing One on Seattle Freeway

July 5, 2020 Updated: July 5, 2020

The Seattle Police Department said it is trying to determine the motive of a driver who struck two Black Lives Matter protesters who were part of a crowd of protesters blocking Interstate 5.

Summer Taylor, 24, was killed when the driver, Dawit Kelete, drove around vehicles that blocked I-5 and hit the crowd at around 1:40 a.m., a police report said. Video footage showed people yelling, “Car! Car!” before the car struck Taylor and Diaz Love, 32.

Officials said in a news conference that they are trying to figure out where Kelete got onto the interstate and are seeking a possible motive. Authorities said they suspected that he drove the wrong way onto the ramp and went through a barrier to close down that section of the freeway.

The Washington State Patrol announced that following the woman’s death, police “will not be allowing protesters to enter I-5” to ensure “the safety of all citizens including protesters and motorists.” It added that “pedestrians walking on the freeway will be arrested.”

Trooper Chase Van Cleave told The Associated Press that Kelete, who was alone, kept driving south after hitting the two women, adding that a protester got in a car and chased his vehicle for about a mile. Van Cleave said the demonstrator was able to get him to stop by pulling his car in front of his.

Kelete was booked into the King County Jail and was held without bail. He is being investigated for two counts of vehicular assault, Van Cleave said.

“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,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan wrote on Twitter.

Epoch Times Photo
Washington State Troopers investigate the scene where two people in a group of protesters were struck by a car on I-5 in Seattle. (Jason Redmond/Reuters)

State Patrol Capt. Ron Mead said in a statement that it’s not wise for pedestrians to be on the interstate.

“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. 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,” he said.

Seattle has been embroiled in unrest since the death of George Floyd in police custody in late May, with protesters, anarchists, and self-described Marxists setting up an “autonomous zone” in the Capitol Hill area. Police and city workers last week dismantled the area.