Anti-Police Brutality Protests Erupt after Tacoma Officer Drives through Crowd, Runs Over One Person, Sends People to Hospital

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Tacoma Police and other law enforcement officials stand in a line as protesters approach in the street in front of the City-County Building during a protest against police brutality, late Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021, in downtown Tacoma, Wash., south of Seattle. The protest came a day after at least two people were injured when a Tacoma police officer responding to a report of a street race drove his car through a crowd of pedestrians that had gathered around him. Several people were knocked to the ground and at least one person was run over. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

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.

According to a press release from the Tacoma Police Department, the police officer was allegedly responding to an incident.

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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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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35 thoughts on “Anti-Police Brutality Protests Erupt after Tacoma Officer Drives through Crowd, Runs Over One Person, Sends People to Hospital”

  1. Chris Griffith

    When things missing from this beautiful piece

    How did the local business people feel about this increased amount of people in the downtown area of Tacoma did they feel encouraged?? This is flash mob could have turned into something brilliant like a full piece orchestra that would be cool I’m glad to see Washington’s known for his peace and love. 😁

  2. Chris Griffith

    In all truthfulness  I believe the Tacoma of police department should whip out their little batons and beat the crap out of them in non-violent way of course they might you leave a few black and blue marks maybe a broken bone or two and of course a few innocent people might get their head cracked too but that’s okay it’ll give it’ll give him something to talk about to the grandkids when they get old.

    If they do this a few times maybe these peaceful protesters might get the idea…

        1. Keith Olsen

          So cops aren’t supposed to do their job when cars and people are acting recklessly?  The cop did not initially drive into the crowd, he went to the site of the speeding cars and the crowd then surrounded the police cruiser.  Why are you defending people who attacked the police vehicle?

          1. David Greenwald

            I think your response begs several important questions.

            (1) What is their job in this situation
            (2) Should they escalate or attempt to de-escalate conflict
            (3) Was there a legitimate reason to do what they did

            Nowhere did I defend anything – but just because one action is wrong, doesn’t validate another. Ultimately I hold police to higher standards than I do ordinary citizens.

  3. Keith Olsen

    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.

    If you are in a crowd and surround and hit a police vehicle you might get hurt.  It’s on you if you do.

     

    1. Tia Will

      Keith

      Part of the problem seems to be that we envision the “job” of the police differently. You seem to see the job of the police as to restore order by any means necessary including running over people with their car. I see the job of the police as the restoration of order and peace in the least aggressive manner possible. This would include not increasing the chaos. True the people in the street should not attack the police car.

      However, the people in the street are not equally culpable and as the Heather Hyer incident showed us, when a car accelerates into a group of people, it is the innocent as well as the guilty who may be harmed.

      I would suggest that we don’t have enough information to judge the actions of this officer at this time. Did he become isolated from the other police due to miscommunication or misjudgment? Did he try to summon help so as to be less vulnerable? Was he truly in danger, or did he just panic? I think more information is needed prior to simply backing one side or the other. Also, as we learned from the Picnic Day incident, how the actions are initially portrayed does not always correspond to a full investigation.

      1. Keith Olsen

        You seem to see the job of the police as to restore order by any means necessary including running over people with their car.

        I didn’t seem to say any such thing.

      2. John Hobbs

        “I would suggest that we don’t have enough information to judge the actions of this officer at this time.”

        Was the officer sober at the time? Did the department drug test him afterward? does he have a record of “suspicious” incidents?

  4. Bill Marshall

    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.

    Cite?  Or social media site?

    Without video footage, hard to judge… “drives through”, could mean he “accelerated” from stopped, to 0.5 mph, 30 mph, or 70 mph…

    There is ‘police brutality’, and there is ‘crowd brutality’… both are wrong, abhorrent, and should be sanctioned… they do not ‘cancel out’…

    As it stands, based on the narrative presented, I neither see ‘righteous folk’, nor ‘victims’… more than enough “stupids” to go around…

    But this article is sure to generate a lot of comments and ‘hits’… perhaps that is the purpose for the article, ‘tone’ and its posting?  Earmarks of a combination of Poli Sci, and Psych?

  5. John Hobbs

    “So cops aren’t supposed to do their job”

    Cops are supposed to foster order,  not incite violence.

    They are supposed to be held to a “PROFESSIONAL STANDARD” of behavior and performance.

  6. Bill Marshall

    – just ask the cops on Picnic Day how that worked out.

    As I recall, there were no injuries re: ‘driving’… the problems occurred when the vehicle was stopped, and PD got out…

    Note that ‘cops’ is derived from “coppers”, the material police badges were made from… originally meant as an insult… likely as the N-word was derived from Negroes, which was derived from the term used for people who came from Niger and/or Nigeria… it is not quite as derogative a term as ‘pigs’, but still ‘derogative’… but completely acceptable to you, David, and many others, as ‘common usage’… the N-word, Negro, African-American used to be the same… just saying…

    1. Keith Olsen

      With the recent riots and officers getting killed or hurt I don’y think it too far fetched that an officer surrounded by one hundred people pounding on his car felt endangered.

      1. David Greenwald

        Watching the video, it’s not clear he was surrounded with a crowd. Also, there is at least a question as to whether he could have simply started moving forward rather than what he did which was rapidly accelerate into a crowd of people.

        1. Ron Oertel

          Do you think it might be relevant to post a link to the video (in advance), for articles like this? Especially if you’re then going to speculate/interpret what occurred?

  7. Chris Griffith

    I find it quite interesting that the Davis Vanguard is running a story about Dubai today?? If this incident in Tacoma happened in Dubai what do you think the end results would have been? I think these two stories should have been combined somehow I think it would have a very interesting.

    In some ways I think the United States should model itself after Dubai’s drug laws and maybe even the way that Dubai would have handled this particular  situation

    1. Bill Marshall

      John H… first, thank you for the links… appreciated…

      Watching them (videos), it is clear there were none totally innocent… but the officer should clearly be fired, and never serve in law enforcement again (and lose any potential retirement benefits, and possibly/likely[?] recission of pay while on ‘adminstrative leave’)… but I can’t get to “attempted vehicular homicide”… that goes too far… goes to “intent”… most I could see was ‘negligent injury’ (if that is a legal term)… he should have no protection against civil claims… but “criminal“?

      At a minimum he should have to pay at least 50% of total costs, now, and future, for the care, rehab, on going medical cost for the one ‘run over’… I say that, as I saw no “innocents” in the video footage (except, perhaps, the one who captured the video)… yet, I firmly believe the officer should have been ‘the adult in the room’, and had alternatives…

      In no event should he ever be employed in Public Safety service… anywhere… life-time ban… he f’ed up… and so did the crowd… it is also being “over-played’ as evil PD and innocent bystanders…

        1. Bill Marshall

          Differently, to be sure… never been in that situation (so have no way of knowing, exactly, but it would have been different), and hope it stays that way…
          How would you handle the situation if you were sitting behind the steering wheel of that car, Mr Chris?  You asked a question, I honestly answered, so, your turn… (altho’ I have no expectation that you will answer, honestly)…
          So, I’ll double down… do you believe the officer acted in a professional way?  Should he have driven such that more were injured, perhaps killed?  Again, I have no expectation of a thoughtful, honest response…

          It is what it is, and the officer should never wear a peace officer uniform again, unless, maybe, behind a desk… I worked in public service for over 35 years (not as a police officer)… his actions are a stain on not only police, but anyone in public service… his ‘choices’ are reprehensible… period.

          And I am neither a ‘liberal’, nor a ‘progressive’… ask pretty much anyone who knows me… am neither Democrat, nor Republican…

  8. Alan Miller

    Bottom line is that true peaceful protests are clean and effective, and what often derails them is the peaceful participants not being willing or courageous enough to stop those there to incite violence.  Taken a step further, those non-participants that excuse the violence because the cause of the protest is just, only further the violence and the downfall of the cause.

    Had even one person attacked the UC Davis police when the Pepper Spray Incident occurred, that incident would have had an entirely different place in history.  This is why destabilizers are so effective in destroying nonviolent movements.  Most of the 60’s marches inspired by King were done peacefully with courage and with class.  That is why they were effective, and why I hitch my wagon to that era and that belief system.

  9. John Hobbs

    ” How would you handle the situation if you were sitting behind the steering wheel of that car.”

    Sit there, until the crowd dispersed or other officers arrived to “escort” the crowd(?) away.

     

  10. John Hobbs

    “Bottom line is that true peaceful protests”

    There was no protest until after the cop drove through the crowd.

    The cops were there to break up a side show.

  11. Chris Griffith

    Mr Marshall

    I have been put in that fight or flight position once and only once would I have done what he did I’m not really for sure but when you feel liquid dribbling down  your legs you have a tendency to do whatever it takes to get out of the situation you’re in where the help is on its way or not. This particular individual was a 30-year veteran and he was 58 years old and he is probably been in serious situations before so he probably had pretty good instincts pertaining to depending doom

     

     

     

    1. John Hobbs

      Funny, I’ve been there a few times and found the wisdom to sit tight and fan it without need for an adult diaper. Here’s the deal, Chris: Public servants are oath takers. They are sworn to protect life and uphold the constitution. He broke that oath.

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