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Emergency workers tend to an injured person on the ground after a driver sped through a protest-related closure on the Interstate 5 freeway in Seattle, authorities said early Saturday, July 4, 2020. Dawit Kelete, 27, has been arrested and booked on two counts of vehicular assault. (James Anderson via AP)
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By MARTHA BELLISLE and BRADY McCOMBS, with the Associated Press
SEATTLE (AP) — A person killed Saturday when a man who drove his car onto a closed Seattle freeway and into a crowd protesting police brutality was remembered Sunday as someone who was dedicated to the cause.
The other person hit in the incident, meanwhile, remained in serious condition Sunday at a Seattle hospital.
The deceased, Summer Taylor, 24, spent the last six weeks “tirelessly standing up for others while working full time and supporting everyone around them,” wrote Urban Animal on Instagram, the veterinarian clinic where Taylor worked in Portland, Oregon.
Taylor, who the post said used they and them pronouns, was “a positive force of nature” and brought joy, the post said. “Anyone that works for Urban Animal will tell you that Summer Taylor’s laugh makes any bad day better.”
Katelyn Hoberecht, who worked with Taylor at the veterinary clinics, told the Seattle Times that Taylor had been a frequent presence at protests.
“Summer has been there since day one standing up for Black lives. Staying out all day and night, while still working full time taking care of animals,” Hoberecht said. “Summer talked to me about the protests, and how incredible it was to be a part of something so huge. A part of history.”
Kamala Harris, a U.S. senator and former Democratic presidential candidate from California, was among those honoring Taylor on social media Sunday. Harris tweeted: “Absolutely heartbreaking. Summer Taylor was only 24-years-old, peacefully protesting for Black Lives Matter when they were struck by a car. Thinking of their family during this difficult time and everyone in the movement today.”
Diaz Love, 32, also of Portland, Oregon, was also hit when the car barreled through a panicked crowd of protesters on Interstate 5 early Saturday morning. Diaz remained in serious condition Sunday in the intensive care unit at Harborview Medical Center, but her health is improving, spokesperson Susan Gregg said.
The driver of the car that hit them, Dawit Kelete, is in custody awaiting a court hearing on Monday at which the judge will determine if he can be released on bail, according to court documents.
Kelete, of Seattle, drove the car around vehicles that were blocking I-5 and sped into the crowd about 1:40 a.m., according to a police report released by the Washington State Patrol. Video taken at the scene by protesters showed people shouting “Car! Car!” before fleeing the roadway.
Love was filming the protest in a nearly two-hour-long Facebook livestream captioned “Black Femme March takes I-5” when the video ended abruptly; with about 15 seconds left, shouts of “Car!” can be heard as the camera starts to shake before screeching tires and the sound of impact are heard.
A graphic video posted on social media showed the white Jaguar racing toward a group of protesters who are standing behind several parked cars, set up for protection. The car swerves around the other vehicles and slams into the two protesters, sending them flying into the air.
Kelete, who was alone, fled the scene after hitting the protesters, Trooper Chase Van Cleave told The Associated Press. One of the other protesters got in a car and chased the driver for about a mile. He was able to stop him by pulling his car in front of the Jaguar, Van Cleave said.
Troopers arrived, and the driver was put in custody, Washington State Patrol Capt. Ron Mead said.
Kelete was described by officers as reserved and sullen when he was arrested, according to court documents. He also asked if the pedestrians were OK, the documents say.
Kelete was booked into the King County Correctional Facility on Saturday morning on two counts of vehicular assault. Bail was denied.
A judge found probable cause to hold Kelete on an investigation of vehicular assault.
It was not immediately clear if Kelete had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
Officials were trying to determine the motive as well as where he got onto the interstate, which had been closed by the state patrol for more than an hour before the protesters were hit.
Mead said they suspect Kelete drove the wrong way on a ramp. Trooper Rick Johnson said the driver went through a barrier that closed the freeway.
Troopers did not know whether it was a targeted attack, but impairment was not considered a factor, Mead said.
Kelete has a Seattle address. He is listed in public records as a student who attended Washington State University between 2011 and 2017 majoring in business and commerce. His enrollment status could not be confirmed because the university was closed over the weekend.
The Washington State Patrol said Saturday evening that going forward it won’t allow protesters to enter I-5 and would arrest pedestrians on the freeway.
Seattle has been the site of prolonged unrest following the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which sparked nationwide protests. Dozens of people were arrested this past week in connection with protests as demonstrations continue after authorities cleared the “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest” zone Wednesday morning.
Protesters had shut down the interstate for 19 days in a row, Mead said at a news conference.