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Driver Who Struck Seattle Protesters Is 'Very Remorseful,' Attorney Says

Newsweek logo Newsweek 7/7/2020 Khaleda Rahman
a group of people sitting in front of a crowd: Protesters hold a vigil to honor Summer Taylor, who died after they were hit by a car during a recent protest, on July 5, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. © David Ryder/Getty Images Protesters hold a vigil to honor Summer Taylor, who died after they were hit by a car during a recent protest, on July 5, 2020 in Seattle, Washington.

The driver who struck two Seattle protesters on a closed freeway, killing one, is "very remorseful," his attorney has said.

Dawit Kelete, 27, a Black man, drove his white Jaguar through a crowd of protesters on Interstate 5 early Saturday morning.

Summer Taylor, 24, died at Harborview Medical Center on Saturday evening, while 32-year-old Diaz Love, who was also struck, remains in hospital after sustaining serious injuries.

Kelete had driven his vehicle around cars that had been parked on the freeway to protect people protesting police brutality, Trooper Chase Van Cleave told Newsweek, before speeding away at around 1.40 a.m.

"Protesters had been on the freeway for a little bit over an hour when a vehicle, the white Jaguar, made its way on the freeway and drove southbound and struck two of the protesters at a high rate of speed," he said.

Van Cleave said Kelete was taken into custody around a mile away after another protester got into a car and chased him, then blocked him by pulling his vehicle in front of the Jaguar.

Authorities are still investigating a possible motive for the incident, although Van Cleave said impairment is not being considered a factor.

Kelete's lawyer, John Henry Browne, said the crash was not intentional but a "horrible, 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 a U.S. citizen who is originally from Eritrea, Browne added. He said Kelete lives with his family, who are very religious, in Seattle. Browne has been contacted for additional comment.

Kelete was "reserved and appeared sullen throughout his time in custody," Trooper James McGuire wrote in the arrest report. "At one point he asked if the injured pedestrians were okay."

He was booked into the King County Correctional Facility on Saturday morning on two counts of vehicular assault.

On Monday, a judge set his bail at $1.2 million bail, according to the Associated Press.

The King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office hasn't filed charges against Kelete yet, saying it is still waiting for additional information from the State Patrol.

A decision is expected by Wednesday afternoon, a spokesman said. The attorney's office has been contacted for additional comment.

Love had been live-streaming the protest on Facebook for almost two hours when the Jaguar sped into the crowd. The video ended abruptly seconds after protesters started shouting "Car! Car!" and the sound of screeching tires and a loud crash was heard.

In a post on Facebook on Sunday night, Love wrote: "I'm alive and 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."

Seattle has seen weeks of unrest since the death of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis police custody on May 25. Floyd's killing prompted weeks of protests across the U.S.

Protests in Seattle have continued since last week when authorities cleared the "Capitol Hill Organized Protest," a several block stretch in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Protesters had occupied the area for much of June after police abandoned the precinct following clashes with demonstrators.

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