Bail was set Monday for the driver suspected of hitting two protesters, killing one, on Interstate 5 in Seattle over the weekend, while a King County sheriff’s deputy was put on leave over a social media post that mocked the demonstrators’ death and injuries.
The driver, who the Washington State Patrol identified as 27-year-old Dawit Kelete, is being held on $1.2 million bail, according to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
At an initial hearing Saturday for Kelete, who is Black, a judge found probable cause for vehicular assault against two victims. Charges are expected to be filed Wednesday afternoon.
John Henry Browne, an attorney for Kelete, told The Associated Press the crash was a “horrible, horrible accident” and was not intentional.
“There’s absolutely nothing political about this case whatsoever,” Browne said. “My client is in tears. He’s very remorseful. He feels tremendous guilt.”
The victims of the hit-and-run, who both use they/them pronouns, were part of a daily march led by Black women, protesters outside the King County Courthouse said Monday.
Summer Taylor, a 24-year-old from Seattle, died from their injuries Saturday night at Harborview Medical Center. Taylor’s official cause of death is pending an investigation by the State Patrol, the King County Medical Examiner’s Office reported Monday.
As of 12:45 p.m. Monday, 32-year-old Diaz Love remained in serious condition with multiple injuries at Harborview Medical Center, a hospital spokesperson said.
Love posted on Facebook on Sunday night that they are “alive and stable. In a lot of pain.”
“If they thought this murder would make us back down, they are very wrong,” they wrote. “Very wrong.”
According to a statement outlining the State Patrol’s case against him, Kelete was arrested around 1:30 a.m. Saturday on I-5 near the Interstate 90 interchange after he allegedly drove the wrong direction onto the Stewart Street offramp toward the highway.
At the time, I-5 was closed between I-90 and Highway 520 because a group of protesters had marched onto the freeway, the document said.
Kelete turned onto I-5, sped past vehicles parked on the freeway to protect protesters and hit the two demonstrators before continuing south, according to the State Patrol.
Meanwhile, a King County Sheriff’s Office deputy was placed on administrative leave after making what the Sheriff’s Office described as “concerning posts” on social media over the weekend.
Screenshots shared on social media showed a post under the name Mike Brown; the Sheriff’s Office confirmed Brown is a detective. The screenshots captured a Facebook post with an image that read “All lives splatter” — accompanied by a graphic of a vehicle running people over. “Keep your (expletive) off the road,” the graphic continued.
Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday that Brown is his cousin, and that he was “deeply disappointed and totally reject the language” in the posts.
“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.
“We value all members of our community and are committed to serving everyone equally, with dignity and respect,” Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht wrote in a statement Monday. “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.”
The office is also investigating other employees who “may have participated via reactions or comments on the post,” the statement said.
The King County Sheriff’s Office Guild didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, the State Patrol announced over the weekend that it would no longer allow protesters on the interstate. Capt. Ron Mead said Monday troopers are “not planning to shut down I-5 anymore if we don’t have to … (But) we will always err on the side of safety, so we will if we need to.”
“We’re only going to close it if we absolutely have to for public safety, whereas before we were closing proactively,” Mead said.
During a City Council briefing Monday morning, some council members addressed the hit-and-run on I-5.
“It is another Monday, and we have more to mourn this week,” Councilmember Lisa Herbold said, citing Taylor’s death, in addition to the earlier deaths of Horace Lorenzo Anderson Jr. and Antonio Mays Jr. at the CHOP.
Herbold said the city should help provide “support and resources” related to traumatized protesters.
State Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, told The Seattle Times he requested a meeting with WSP officials about “the general approach State Patrol has taken in temporarily closing the freeway” Monday afternoon, but he hadn’t heard back yet.
Goodman, who’s the chair of the House Public Safety Committee, said he wants to learn more about “what happened, what went wrong and the mixed messaging … I’ve also heard about some blaming of protesters for being victims. There’s a careful balance of protecting public safety and also protecting the right to free speech.”
Seattle Times staff reporters Daniel Beekman, Asia Fields and Michelle Baruchman contributed to this story.