SEATTLE (CN) — The driver who hit and killed a Black Lives Matter protester and injured another was charged Wednesday with vehicular homicide, two counts of vehicular assault and reckless driving.
Dawit Kelete drove the wrong way onto the I-5, struck two protesters who were part of a demonstration blocking traffic and drove away in the early morning of July 4, according to the Washington State Patrol. He was arrested a short time later.
Summer Taylor, 24, died the next day from her injuries and Diaz Love is currently hospitalized in serious condition.
John Henry Browne, who is representing Kelete, said it was a “horrible accident.”
“There’s absolutely nothing political about this case whatsoever,” Browne told The Associated Press. “My client is in tears. He’s very remorseful. He feels tremendous guilt.”
Kelete is being held on $1.2 million bail, according to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
A security camera captured Kelete’s car driving the wrong way up a ramp and onto the road at freeway speeds where the protesters were standing, according to charging documents.
Prosecutors said Kelete’s car contained tools for smoking illegal substances and a substance that appeared to be crystal meth.
Kelete also told jail personnel he was addicted to prescription painkillers, according to court records.
Summer Taylor’s mother Dalia Taylor said Summer, who used they pronouns, had “a heart full of empathy,” at a press conference on Wednesday.
“That is why I knew no matter how much I might want to ask them to stay safe during protests they would just say, ‘Mom, if you are black in this country it isn’t even safe to be alive,’ and they were right. So even in death, we want Summer’s passion as an ally to continue lifting up black lives in Seattle and all over our country. There is a lot left to do,” Taylor said.
Love posted on Facebook Sunday that she was in pain, but stable.
“In a lot of pain. I cannot believe Summer was murdered. If they thought this murder would make us back down, they are very wrong. Very wrong,” the post said.
The protests shutting down the freeway were part of nightly demonstrations occurring in Seattle since the killing of George Floyd, a black man killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis.
Protesters will no longer be allowed to enter the freeway, the State Patrol announced this weekend after the hit-and-run.
“We’re only going to close it if we absolutely have to for public safety, whereas before we were closing proactively,” Capt. Ron Mead said.
King County Sheriff’s Office detective Mike Brown, who is also Governor Jay Inslee’s cousin, has been placed on administrative leave after saying “All lives splatter,” in a social media post over the weekend. His post also had a graphic with a vehicle running people over.
“The language is unacceptable and just flat wrong, particularly from a law enforcement officer, as we try to heal the divisions of our community,” Inslee wrote in a tweet.
“I will take swift action to thoroughly investigate when the conduct of Sheriff’s Office members fails to reflect our core values and violates Sheriff’s Office policy,” Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht said in a statement.