UPDATED: 7:45 a.m. ET, Jan. 25 —
More than 100 protesters gathered Sunday night to demand justice about 24 hours after stunning video footage went viral showing a police vehicle surrounded by pedestrians, speeding through the crowd and appearing to drive over several people in Washington State.
Protesters are gathering in Tacoma, Washington, after videos emerged of a police officer driving through a crowd of spectators at a street racing event in the city last night #Tacoma #TacomaProtests #Washington pic.twitter.com/SBCY5Duljv
— Brendan Gutenschwager (@BGOnTheScene) January 25, 2021
The protesters were reacting to the different narratives that emerged following the instance of apparent police violence, with the Tacoma Police Department offering what seems to be a justification for the still-unidentified officer’s actions that left at least two people hospitalized on Saturday.
The person who recorded the viral 20-second clip told the News Tribune, a local media outlet, that the officer who drove the police SUV never gave a warning to the throngs of people who had gathered in downtown Tacoma to watch what was reported to be a “street race.”
The brief video begins by showing the SUV with its emergency lights flashing surrounded by a sea of people, many of them wielding cellphones and apparently also recording, as well. The SUV can then be heard revving its engine before it accelerated through the group. The video showed the SUV slowing down a bit while it appeared to hit several people as the vehicle goes up and down like it drover over multiple speed bumps placed closely together.
Witnesses can be heard expressing themselves in disbelief.
Watch the video below.
9th and Pacific Ave in Tacoma pic.twitter.com/C76iq2Eimw
— Jason Gauthier (@jasonjgauthier) January 24, 2021
The person who filmed the video — only identifying himself as “Mark” — told the News Tribune that the police SUV never took to its loudspeaker to tell the crowd to disperse or even offer them a warning that it would be moving forward. Mark said the SUV backed up few feet before speeding forward and plowing into the crowd of people The short video appears to corroborate that account.
But the Tacoma Police Department begged to differ.
In a subsequent press release, the Tacoma Police Department described the police officer as a victim.
“People hit the body of the police vehicle and its windows as the officer was stopped in the street. The officer, fearing for his safety, tried to back up, but was unable to do so because of the crowd. The officer had his lights and sirens activated,” the press release said in part. “While trying to extricate himself from an unsafe position, the officer drove forward striking one individual and may have impacted others. The officer stopped at a point of safety and called for medical aid. One person was transported to an area hospital. That person’s condition is, at this time, unknown.”
The News Tribune reported that a police spokesperson said “the officer used his car’s bullhorn to address the crowd,” which prompted the crown to start “pounding on his windows.” However, that [art was absent from the press release.
The officer has been placed on paid administrative leave while the Pierce County Force Investigation Team — a separate but related law enforcement agency — investigates the incident, which came amid nationwide protests against police violence and calls to defund police departments with officers who use lethal force as a primary option.