Dozens gathered in downtown Tacoma, Washington, on Sunday to protest the city’s police department after a police officer drove into a crowd Saturday night.
The 58-year-old police officer was placed on administrative leave after running over at least one person and possibly striking others, according to a press release from the Tacoma Police Department. He had been with the department for nearly 30 years.
The officer was not identified in the police statement.
Two people were taken to the hospital following the incident, according to the Pierce County Force Investigative Team, which is now leading the investigation. None of the injures are believed to be life-threatening, according to the investigative team’s statement, and at least one person has since been released.
Some of the protesters Sunday night blocked streets with signs and traffic cones near where the incident occurred. Others overturned trashcans and lit the contents on fire, while a few smashed windows of cars and buildings.
Officer drove through crowd after he was surrounded, police say
Along with other police units, the officer was responding to reports of an incident at the intersection of South 9th and Pacific Avenue in Tacoma around 6:20 p.m. on Saturday, a press release from TPD said.
Once on scene, the officers found a number of vehicles and approximately 100 people blocking the intersection, which they began to clear “for the safety of those gathered and people trying to use the street,” the release said.
As the officers worked to clear the street, a crowd formed around the officer’s vehicle and began pounding on the windows, Tacoma police spokesperson Wendy Haddow told The News Tribune.
“He was afraid they would break his glass,” she said, prompting him to speed away from the scene, the News Tribune reported.
Lights and sirens were activated as the crowd continued to surround the vehicle, the release said. The officer inside the SUV tried backing up, but according to the release was not able to because of the crowd.
“Fearing for his safety,” the release said, “the officer drove forward striking one individual and may have impacted others,” while trying to get out of the “unsafe position.” Once the officer was “at a point of safety,” he called for medical aid the release said.
The News Tribune reported one person sustained a laceration in the collision and was transported to a local hospital.
Videos show officer drive through crowd
In at least one graphic video of the incident that was circulating on social media, the police vehicle with lights and sirens on can be seen slowly moving closer to the crowd gathered in front of the vehicle.
An engine is heard revving in the background and the vehicle backs up before accelerating forward into the crowd, knocking several people to the ground.
The vehicle then slows down slightly, as it appears to bounce while driving over something, before continuing through the intersection. The back tires of the vehicle can be seen rolling over someone lying in the street.
A second video shot at the scene shows a white car doing donuts in the middle of the intersection and driving off just as officers arrive, moments before the police vehicle is seen driving through the crowd.
In another video, the sound of an engine revving is followed by a series of thuds and an individual exclaiming twice, “Damn, they’re hitting a cop car.”
Moments later an engine is heard revving again and people scatter and begin to scream, “Oh my God! Oh my God!” repeatedly. A few seconds later a smaller crowd is seen forming around what appears to be someone laying on the ground.
Mayor wants those involved held accountable
Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards said in a statement she is “deeply concerned” by the incident.
“As a use of deadly force, this incident is being taken very seriously and the scene has appropriately been turned over to the Pierce County Force Investigation Team for independent investigation,” the mayor said.
“While we await more information, I want the community to know that I am deeply concerned and praying for everyone who was impacted by last night’s events,” Woodards said. “I continue to be proud of Tacoma’s long-standing reputation as a place of strong, non-violent advocacy and activism.”
The mayor has called on the city manager and police chief to hold everyone involved accountable in the incident.
Tacoma City Manager Elizabeth Pauli told CNN affiliate KING Sunday that videos she watched of the incident were “horrific.”
“I was horrified, those videos are very difficult to watch,” Pauli said. “I feel concern for the individual that was run over. I feel concern for those that witnessed that event. I feel concern for our officers that are involved.”
Interim Police Chief Mike Ake said in a press release “I am concerned that our department is experiencing another use of deadly force incident.”
“I send my thoughts to anyone who was injured in tonight’s event and am committed to our Department’s full cooperation in the independent investigation and to assess the actions of the department’s response during the incident,” Ake said.
The Community Police Advisory Board will hold a special meeting Monday night at 6 p.m. PST to discuss the incident, a tweet from TPD said.
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