Protester dies after struck by speeding car at Black Lives Matter freeway demonstration in Seattle

One other demonstrator hit by the luxury vehicle was critically injured.

July 06, 2020, 1:29 PM

A young protester has died from injuries suffered when a luxury car plowed into Black Lives Matter demonstrators Saturday on a Seattle freeway that has been shut down for days due to the civil unrest, police said.

Summer Taylor was pronounced dead at a local hospital hours after a 27-year-old man in a white Jaguar drove onto a closed section of Interstate 5 where ongoing demonstrations have been occurring and slammed into Taylor and another protester, Diaz Love, 32, who was seriously injured, police said.

Surveillance video captured the 2013 Jaguar apparently speeding down the freeway, swerving around cars supporting the protest that were blocking the lanes and striking Taylor and Love, who were walking on the shoulder, knocking them into the air, over the roof of the vehicle and onto the pavement.

"Absolutely heartbreaking. Summer Taylor was only 24-years-old, peacefully protesting for Black Lives Matter when they were struck by a car," Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, said in a statement posted on Twitter Sunday morning. "Thinking of their family during this difficult time and everyone in the movement today."

PHOTO: Emergency personnel work at the site where a driver sped through a protest-related closure on the Interstate 5 freeway in Seattle, July 4, 2020.
Emergency personnel work at the site where a driver sped through a protest-related closure on the Interstate 5 freeway in Seattle, July 4, 2020.
James Anderson/AP

The incident unfolded about 1:40 a.m. on Saturday when the driver who was arrested and identified by authorities as Dawit Kelete, 27, of Seattle, allegedly entered the closed freeway by going the wrong way on an exit ramp and drove at high-speed toward a crowd of people protesting the police-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, authorities said.

"Very candidly, we don't know, at this point in the investigation, what the motive was, what the reasoning was," Capt. Ron Mead of the Washington State Patrol said at a news conference.

Mead said that that according to the preliminary investigation drugs or alcohol were not factors in the incident.

Following the episode, authorities cleared I-5 and warned protesters that anyone caught attempting to march on to the freeway will be arrested.

"The freeway is simply not a safe place ... We feared something like this would happen," Mead said.

PHOTO: Washington State Patrol Capt. Ron Mead briefs media near the scene where two people in a group of protesters were struck by a car on Interstate 5 while the highway was closed to traffic due to the protest in Seattle, July 4, 2020.
Washington State Patrol Capt. Ron Mead briefs media near the scene where two people in a group of protesters were struck by a car on Interstate 5 while the highway was closed to traffic due to the protest in Seattle, July 4, 2020.
Jason Redmond/Reuters

Mead said the driver was initially arrested on charges of vehicular assault and felony hit-and-run. Kelete remained in jail without bail on Sunday.

"Those [charges] could be upgraded depending on the progress of the investigation," Mead said.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a tweet that "many others were almost hit and witnessed this horrific event."

Prior to news of Taylor's death, friends had established a GoFundMe page in hopes of helping Taylor recover from the injuries.

"Summer is an incredibly strong and independent spirit," wrote Becky Gilliam, who organized the GoFundMe page that as of Monday morning had raised more than $62,000.

Gilliam wrote that Taylor worked at a veterinary clinic and described Taylor as a "bright and caring person who's presence elicits joy and laughter in others."

For weeks, law enforcement authorities have warned pedestrian protesters not to use the highways as the setting for demonstrations.

The section of Interstate 5 through downtown Seattle has been closed multiple times in recent weeks due to large-scale protests.

PHOTO: Protesters block Interstate 5 after marching from the area known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) on June 24, 2020 in Seattle.
Protesters block Interstate 5 after marching from the area known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) on June 24, 2020 in Seattle.
David Ryder/Getty Images, FILE

Taylor was pronounced dead after being taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Love of Bellingham, Washington, was in serious condition at Harborview, Mead said.

Love had been broadcasting the protest for about two hours on Facebook Live under the caption "Black Femme March takes I-5." The video ended abruptly after someone, according to the Associated Press, is heard yelling, "Car!"

State police said the suspect continued to drive south on the freeway and was chased by a protester in a car for about a mile before managing to get in front of the Jaguar and forcing it to pull over.

The incident came about a month after a man allegedly drove a car drove through a barricade and brandished a gun at a group of protesters that had commandeered a section of Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood and turned it into an autonomous zone. Following several shootings, police cleared out the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest zone, or CHOP zone, last week.

ABC News' William Mansell and Christina Carrega contributed to this report.

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