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1 Killed, 1 Injured After Driver Strikes Protesters In Seattle

Updated 2:30 a.m. ET Sunday

One person has been killed and one hospitalized in serious condition after a vehicle barreled past a police barrier and into protesters on a freeway in Seattle this weekend.

24-year-old Summer Taylor died Saturday evening at Harborview Medical Center, according hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg. Diaz Love, 32, remains in serious condition.

The Washington State Patrol said Saturday that the driver of the white Jaguar sedan, a 27-year-old man, is in custody. At this point, officers have not offered a motive, though Capt. Ron Mead said officers believe the suspect was not impaired.

At a news conference early Saturday, Mead did not offer further details on how authorities believe the man bypassed a police closure to reach the victims. But he warned that the incident offers a stark lesson for protesters.

"My hope is, as a result of this tragedy, protesters will reconsider their desire to be on the interstate," he said, "because I cannot guarantee their safety, plain and simple."

Several graphic videos of the incident hit social media shortly afterward. In one, the sedan careens past a cluster of vehicles blocking its way, appearing to swerve back into the pair of victims. They're flung skyward off the car's hood before tumbling back down to the surface of Interstate 5.

Another video livestreamed a long, uneventful record of the protest — until, in the final 15 seconds, someone begins to scream, "Car! Car! Car!" The footage ends with the screech of brakes slicing through a swirl of screams and unfocused images.

The incident comes just days after Seattle authorities dismantled a blocks-long zone that had been set aside for protests against police brutality and racial injustice. Since early June, the Capitol Hill Organized Protest zone had been home to demonstrations demanding changes to policing and funding cuts to the police force.

The site was closed because it had become "lawless and brutal," Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best explained this week, noting that shootings in the zone had resulted in two deaths. But the closure has failed to halt protesters from gathering across the city, including on the freeway.

Mead said Saturday that protesters have forced a closure on Interstate 5 every day for nearly three weeks. The freeway, however, is "simply not a safe place" for protesters to gather, he added.

Since nationwide protests erupted in late May, there have been reports of at least 50 vehicle-ramming incidents — many of which were suspected attacks by right-wing extremists targeting Black Lives Matter protesters.

"The message they're trying to send is, 'You need to get out of the street and stop these protests,' " Ari Weil, the terrorism researcher at the University of Chicago who compiled those statistics, told NPR last month. "They're trying to intimidate the most recent wave of BLM protesters, to stop their movement."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.