As the family of Summer Taylor recalled the 24-year-old’s boundless dedication to justice and love of animals to reporters outside their Green Lake home Wednesday, prosecutors charged a Seattle man for driving a car through freeway protesters on July 4, killing Taylor and critically injuring another marcher.
Charges filed in King County Superior Court allege Dawit Kelete told jail officials that he was withdrawing from the narcotic Percocet and that he struggled with an “untreated addiction,” according to court papers. Washington State Patrol accident investigators found “several implements commonly used to smoke illegal substances” and a substance “that appears similar to crystal methamphetamine” in the car.
The charges say investigators obtained a search warrant for Kelete’s blood and that toxicology tests are pending. When he was arrested, a Washington State Patrol drug-recognition specialist determined Kelete had not been drinking and did not appear under the influence.
Kelete was charged with vehicular homicide, vehicular assault and reckless driving, and is being held on $1.2 million bail.
According to the statement of probable cause, Kelete was arrested after he drove a white Jaguar XJL the wrong way up the Stewart Street exit ramp and onto the freeway, which had been closed by Washington State Patrol for what had become nightly protests and marches in support of Black Lives Matter. Traveling at what the complaint says were “freeway speeds,” the car swerved around a barricade of demonstrators’ vehicles and drove into a group of pedestrian protesters who had closed down southbound Interstate 5 near downtown as people screamed and yelled “Car!” Taylor and another protester, Diaz Love, were unable to get out of the way and were struck and thrown several yards into the air.
The horrific incident was recorded on video by bystanders. Kelete’s car was chased by a group security guard and stopped near the I-90 exchange. According to the statement of probable cause, he appeared “sullen” when troopers arrived and “at one point asked if the injured pedestrians were okay.”
The complaint says Taylor suffered “catastrophic injuries” and died later that morning. Love suffered two broken legs, a broken arm and internal injuries, and was in satisfactory condition at Harborview Medical Center as of Wednesday.
Attorney John Henry Browne, who appeared with Kelete at an initial court hearing, previously told The Associated Press the crash was a “horrible, horrible accident,” and that Kelete “feels tremendous guilt.” On Wednesday, Browne said he is waiting to hear from the family to determine whether he or another attorney will represent Kelete going forward. Kelete’s family has declined to comment on the case.
As prosecutors were drafting the charging documents Wednesday, Summer Taylor’s family — flanked by their attorney — held an emotional backyard news conference where they described Summer’s childhood in Seattle, veterinary career ambitions and a deep commitment to justice and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Even as a child, Summer Taylor, who used they/them pronouns, was a “natural leader,” said brother Luke Taylor, 21. He recalled Summer traipsing around on a scooter with a line of neighborhood kids in tow.
“Ever since they came out of the womb, they were performing,” added Dalia Taylor, their mother, who remembered Summer as an imaginative, caring child who oozed creativity and loved animals so much they dedicated an entire fourth-grade project just to dogs.
That childhood passion for animals propelled Summer Taylor throughout life and into a career in the veterinary field at Urban Animal in Seattle. Summer hoped one day to attend veterinary school at Washington State University.
Summer Taylor’s three family members occasionally clasped one another’s hands or gave an encouraging pat on the back while fighting through emotions to describe Summer.
They highlighted Summer Taylor’s charisma and passion, characterizing their family member as someone dedicated to causes.
During the first months of COVID-19, “I couldn’t pry them out of the house,” Dalia Taylor said. “The protests started happening and priorities changed. That’s how important it was.”
Matt Taylor, Summer’s father, said his child had been demonstrating nearly every day since the Black Lives Matter protests began.
“I was very proud,” he said.
But at the same time, the family worried about Summer Taylor’s safety as the demonstrations carried on for weeks and as police sometimes deployed violent tactics against protesters.
Summer Taylor had been tear-gassed during demonstrations, Matt Taylor said, adding that he worried Summer could be arrested. Dalia Taylor said Summer had also been pepper-sprayed by police and that concern only grew after reports of shootings on Capitol Hill near protests.
“It was extremely anxiety provoking,” said Dalia Taylor. “I realized that I’d be experiencing something new to me that families of color have to experience every day.”
Matt Taylor encouraged people to support the Black Lives Matter movement and to honor Summer’s passion.
“It’s painful” because Summer is gone, said Matt Taylor. “I also hope that something positive can come from this tragedy … if people are talking about Summer, it will help push change.”
Matt Taylor, who said he’s largely avoided social media since Summer’s death because of hateful messages, called for the firing of a King County Sheriff’s Office deputy accused of posting an offensive meme apparently in reference to Summer Taylor’s death.
“I didn’t want to see that,” said Matt Taylor. “That guy needs to be fired now. I think anybody who was liking it, sharing it or doing anything else with it should be fired. I think that’s beyond obvious. It’s disgusting and it’s unfathomable to me.”