Tacoma, Washington could soon become the next Portland after a police officer was videotaped driving his SUV through a crowd. Footages emerged from the scene on Saturday (January 23) night, showing the officer driving over a person, who had to be taken to a nearby hospital.
The videos that circulated on social media platforms were difficult to watch. It was shot around 7 PM local time in the downtown area and showed the officer blowing the car's siren and honking to warn the group to clear the way. As the group failed to do so, the patrol car revved the engine and struck the pedestrians down before running over another and driving away.
Mark, one of the dozens of eyewitnesses, shared the video with The News Tribune. He said that the police arrived after five to six cars gathered for street racing on the South 9th Street at the intersection of Court A and Pacific Avenue. Around three dozen of people gathered soon to cheer on the drivers, bringing traffic in the area to a standstill.
What Did Exactly Happen?
The video, for sure, is disturbing. For those who don't want to watch, a Tacoma police car arrived at the scene to clear the sparse crowd that gathered. The car approached from South 11th Street and then to 9th Street. According to eyewitnesses, the patrol car did sound the siren but did not announce to clear the area through the car's bullhorn.
"A lot of people swarmed in that direction of the police car. They were intending to block him," Mark told The News Tribune.
The police officer then drove back three feet before suddenly accelerating forward and driving through the crowd, knocking several people down and running over another. However, the Tacoma police spokesperson Wendy Haddow offered a different account of the incident.
She said that the police were alerted of street racers and around 100 people blocking the road. After arriving at the scene, the officer used his car's bullhorn to urge the crowd to disperse. But they allegedly started pounding on the car's windows. The officer, scared, ran them over before stopping and reporting the incident. However, it is not clear from the footages whether the officer stopped.
"He was afraid they would break his glass. That prompted him to speed out of the scene for his own safety," Haddow said, adding that the car's windows might have been broken and that the officer tried to get out of his car but could not.
Tacoma has been already under a tense situation following the death of Manuel Ellis on March 3, 2020. The African-American man died after a police confrontation. Since then, the Tacoma police department has been under the scanner for using excessive force. With incidents of violent riots frequently grappling Portland, Tacoma, with its history, could very well become the next Portland.
For now, although Tacoma police defended the officer, it has contacted Pierce County Force Investigation Team for an independent probe into the incident. Until then, the unnamed officer has been sent on administrative leave.
"I am concerned that our department is experiencing another use of deadly force incident," Tacoma's Interim Police Chief Mike Ake said in a statement. "I send my thoughts to anyone who was injured in tonight's event, and am committed to our Department's full cooperation in the independent investigation and to assess the actions of the department's response during the incident."
However, despite assurances, many gathered in the area late Saturday night, protesting about police brutality. As per the latest report, the police were trying to disperse the crowd. On social media platforms, the video has garnered national attention with nearly 1.5 million people watching it on Twitter alone. Many of them called for the officer's resignation.
In June, a similar incident was reported in Detroit, where a police patrol car ran over a crowd.