A Tacoma, Washington police officer was placed on administrative leave Sunday after video showed him driving his police SUV through a crowd the night before.
The officer was responding Saturday night to an incident that was reportedly a street sideshow. The cop has not been named, but Tacoma police identified him as a 58-year-old male with nearly 30 years at the Tacoma police department. He’ll remain on paid leave pending the results of an investigation by the Pierce County Force Investigation Team (PCFIT), which investigates use-of-force incidents by cops in the area.
Videos posted on Twitter showed the moment when the Tacoma cop drove through the crowd. In one that had been viewed on Twitter nearly 4 million times, the car is shown accelerating through an intersection.
Warning: The footage below contains graphic images.
Two people were taken to the hospital but did not have life-threatening injuries, and at least one has since been released, PCFIT said in a statement released Sunday.
A second video shows people slapping the hood of the car, but no windows appear to be broken. Suddenly, the cop floors it, knocking several people back and running at least one fully over with his car.
“He just ran like three people over,” someone says in a third video.
Tacoma police said in a statement released Saturday that police responded at around 6:19 p.m. PT to a report of “an incident occurring at an intersection,” which police later said was related to people doing doughnuts and burnouts at an intersection, KIRO-TV in Seattle reported.
The cops went on to say that around 100 people were blocking the intersection, and the cop, “fearing for his safety,” drove forward to “extricate himself from an unsafe position.” (The person who took the first video estimated it was roughly three dozen people, in an interview with the Tacoma News Tribune.) A Tacoma police spokeswoman told the News Tribune that the officer “was afraid they’d break his glass.”
On Sunday, well over a hundred protesters gathered in Tacoma to protest the incident. They were also protesting the killing last March of 33-year-old Manuel Ellis, who police restrained, leading to his death from hypoxia, according to an autopsy. Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards directed City Manager Elizabeth Pauli in June to dismiss the four officers involved in Ellis’s death, but despite Pauli saying at the time that she would “act quickly,” she has not yet fired them.
One video posted to Twitter showed the demonstrators stopping at the Pierce County Jail and rattling the fence while chanting, “Free them all.”
The protests remained relatively peaceful throughout the night, although there was some property damage, with 20 windows broken in three buildings and two police cars, according to the News Tribune.
Two people were arrested prior to the demonstration, Tacoma police spokesperson Wendy Harrow told VICE News in an email. A 32-year-old man and a 36-year-old woman, both allegedly armed, were arrested while allegedly trying to gain access to a secured rooftop.
Harrow said the two were arrested on suspicion of first-degree burglary, and that their attempts to access the rooftop are “believed to be directly involved with the demonstration that was planned for later that evening.” A third person was allegedly involved but was not caught by police.
Woodards said in a statement addressed to Tacoma residents Sunday that she has “called on the City Manager and Police Chief to ensure that everyone involved is held accountable,” and she “continue[s] to support your right to use your voice to advocate and demonstrate peacefully during this time of heightened tension.”
“I am concerned that our department is experiencing another use of deadly force incident,” interim Tacoma police chief Mike Ake said in a statement Saturday. “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.”