By Lauren Smith
TACOMA, WA – A 58-year-old police officer Saturday night plowed into a crowd about 100 people apparently watching street racers doing “burnouts” here in Tacoma, just south of Seattle, sending multiple people to the hospital.
There have been street anti-police brutality protests Sunday and Monday calling for an end to excessive force incidents by law enforcement.
The officer Saturday hit at least one person, possibly more. Two people were taken to the hospital; however, no injuries have been reported as life threatening, and one person has since been released from the hospital.
Since the incident, the unidentified police officer, who has been part of the Tacoma Police Department for nearly 30 years, has been placed on administrative leave.
In the ensuing protests, according to CNN, some streets were blocked with signs and traffic cones in an area near where the incident occurred. Some protesters “overturned trash cans and lit the contents on fire, while a few smashed windows of cars and buildings.”
Wendy Haddow, the police public information officer, stated that officials are currently assessing the damage.
Haddow also stated that, while no one was arrested at the protests, two people were arrested prior to the protest.
The statement claims that multiple vehicles and about 100 people were blocking the intersection when officers arrived on the scene, so they began “clearing the intersection of the vehicles and people for the safety of those gathered and people trying to use the street.”
The officer in question became “surrounded by the crowd” in his vehicle, and protesters began to hit his vehicle. “Fearing for his safety,” the officer attempted to back up but was “unable to because of the crowd.”
While trying to “extricate himself from the unsafe position,” the officer drove forward and hit one or more persons.
Video footage of the incident is graphic, and has been circling via social media.
It depicts the police vehicle with lights and sirens on backing up before accelerating into the crowd, knocking several people over. The vehicle then continues through the intersection, and the back tires are seen rolling over someone in the street.
Mayor Victoria Woodards said that she is “deeply concerned by the incident.
“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, nonviolent advocacy and activism.”
City Manager Elizabeth Pauli stated to CNN, “I was horrified, those videos are very difficult to watch. 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 deplored “another use of deadly force incident,” adding, “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.”
The Pierce County Force Investigation Team is conducting an independent investigation of the incident and the Community Police Advisory Board will hold a special meeting to discuss it.
Lauren Smith is a recent graduate from UC Davis. She received a B.A. in Political Science and Psychology. She is from San Diego, California.
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