SEATTLE (AP) — Two women were struck by a car whose driver sped through a protest-related closure on a freeway in Seattle, authorities said early Saturday.
A 24-year-old woman from Seattle suffered critical, life-threatening injuries and a 32-year-old woman from Bellingham had serious injuries, Washington State Patrol Capt. Ron Mead said.
The driver, a 27-year-old man from Seattle, was in custody, Mead said, adding that impairment was not considered a factor. Charges remain under investigation, as does the motive and point of entry onto the interstate, but Mead said the unnamed man faced multiple felony charges and was suspected to have come on the wrong way on a ramp.
Mead said troopers did not know whether it was a targeted attack.
Video on social media showed a white car traveling at a high rate of speed navigate around two vehicles positioned across the lanes as a barrier. The car careened toward a small crowd of protesters on the freeway, striking two people who flew into the air before landing on the ground.
A nearly two-hour-long Facebook livestream captioned “Black Femme March takes I-5” from Diaz Love 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. The Associated Press could not immediately reach her.
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.
Mead said at the press conference that protesters had shut down the interstate for 19 days in a row. He emphasized that the freeway is “simply not a safe place” for pedestrians, and said he hoped protesters would cease what he termed “unlawful behavior” in blocking the interstate.
“My hope is, as a result of this tragedy, protesters will reconsider their desire to be on the interstate because I cannot guarantee their safety, plain and simple,” Mead said.
Protesters were on the freeway for more than an hour before the car drove around the blockade around 1:36 a.m., Mead said.
The state patrol tweeted out two pictures of the driver’s car, a white Jaguar with significant damage to its bumper and windshield.
Seattle police tweeted that they were assisting with the scene, as southbound lanes of the freeway remained closed for investigation.