After onlookers captured video of a Tacoma Police patrol car running over an individual on Saturday, Jan. 23, investigators in Tacoma, Wash., are looking into what may be “another use of deadly force incident” in the words of the police chief.
In a 48-second video provided to Tacoma’s News Tribune, a patrol car — surrounded by a large group of people — revs its engine and lurches forward, running into a group of pedestrians and running over one person, if not more. (Warning: This video and others from the scene are graphic.)
The police officer was responding to a report of street racers.
The videographer, identified as Mark by the News Tribune, said that there were five to six cars doing circles in the street, stopping traffic. A large group of people — three dozen or so — gathered around to cheer on the racers.
A police car arrived on the scene, and Mark said he heard a siren from the car but no verbal warnings. “A lot of people swarmed in that direction [of the police car],” Mark said. “They were intending to block him.”
The officer behind the wheel reversed about three feet and then surged forward, knocking multiple people to the ground. Another video from the scene shows a person under the wheels of the car. The police car then sped down the street.
The injured person didn’t receive medical treatment for 20 minutes, according to an onlooker.
Tacoma police spokeswoman Wendy Haddow said the police officer, responding to a report of street racers, used the car’s bullhorn to address the crowd and sped away from the scene for his own safety. “He was afraid they would break his glass,” she said.
She said the officer stopped the car and called in the incident, and that one person suffered a laceration and was transported to a hospital. However, an eyewitness told KIRO 7 Seattle that the person who was hit could not crawl to the nearby sidewalk and didn’t get medical treatment for 20 minutes.
City Manager Elizabeth Pauli told The News Tribune that the case will be handed to the Pierce County Force Investigation Team and that the officer will be placed on leave. She said one person was hospitalized but that their condition was not known. “The most important thing to know is we’re very concerned of any injuries this evening,” she added.
The police say the officer’s car struck one individual and “may have impacted others.”
Tacoma Police also released a statement: “At approximately 6:19 p.m. this evening, South Sound 911 received numerous reports of an incident occurring at the intersection of South 9th and Pacific Avenue in Tacoma. There were multiple vehicles and approximately 100 people present blocking the intersection when officers arrived on scene. Tacoma Police officers responding to the location began clearing the intersection of vehicles and people for the safety of those gathered and people trying to use the street.”
The statement continued: “During the operation, a responding Tacoma police vehicle was surrounded by the crowd. People hit the body of the police vehicle and its windows as the officer was stopped in the street. The officer, fearing for his safety, tried to back up, but was unable to do so because of the crowd. The officer had his lights and sirens activated.
“While trying to extricate himself from an unsafe position, the officer drove forward striking one individual and may have impacted others. The officer stopped at a point of safety and called for medical aid. One person was transported to an area hospital. That person’s condition is, at this time, unknown.”
The police chief is “concerned” about the incident.
“Tacoma Police Department has contacted the Pierce County Force Investigation Team (PCFIT) and turned the investigation over to them to conduct an independent investigation of this incident,” the department’s statement added.
In the same statement, Police Chief Mike Ake said, “I am concerned that our department is experiencing another use of deadly force incident,” the statement reads. “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.”