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‘This is outrageous’: Oversight group reacts in wake of Tacoma officer driving through crowd

Tacoma Police and other law enforcement officers stand in an intersection near the site of a car crash Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021, in downtown Tacoma, Wash. At least one person was injured when a police car plowed through a crowd of people Saturday night who were watching a downtown street race, the Tacoma News-Tribune reported. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

In the wake of an incident over the weekend that saw a Tacoma police officer drive his car through a crowd of people, Police Chief Mike Ake joined a special city council meeting Monday, and then met with the city’s Community Police Advisory Committee.

Tacoma police car seen driving into crowd at street race downtown

“The officer that was involved put the car in reverse, believed that he couldn’t move back any further, put the car in drive, and moved forward,” Chief Ake described.

Chief Ake says two of the people hurt by the officer’s moving patrol car were taken to the hospital, but have now been released.

“We do know that the car, our patrol car, impacted and hit a few of the bystanders that were there, and we take that serious,” Ake said.

The chief reported that the officer feared for his life as a group surrounded the patrol car and were banging on the vehicle. After the officer drove through the crowd to escape, Ake says the officer did stop when he was away from the crowd to call paramedics and medical aid.

Later on in the evening, many on the Community Police Advisory Committee spoke of a fractured relationship in Tacoma between community members and the police, and the need for a full and thorough investigation into the events of last Saturday.

Others spoke of their own reactions upon seeing video of the officer driving his vehicle through a crowd and running over two people.

“I am appalled at what I saw,” said at-large committee member Dana Coggon. “I’ve watched various videos from various angles — I am no researcher. I am a citizen. As a citizen, I don’t like what I saw.”

“I was horrified to see that video,” echoed District 2 representative Shayna Raphael.

“This is outrageous — there’s no excuse for this to have happened,” agreed at-large representative Louis Cooper.

Speaking to reports from the officer that he feared for his life, Cooper took issue with that assessment.

“Every time an officer uses ‘I fear for my life,’ that vindicates the officer, and says that the person in front of him was guilty automatically,” he said. “We can no longer settle for ‘I fear for my life.’”

“When I saw that, my heart broke — I was crying. Why does that happen in America?” he asked.

Cooper went on to express concerns over an investigatory process that will still include members of law enforcement.

“I call it the fox watching the chicken coop,” he noted. “You can’t have police investigating the police because they’re going to protect their own.”

Also speaking out Monday was one of the victims, Tavon Williams.

“It’s hard. It’s hard for me right now,” Williams told KIRO 7 TV. “Honestly, it plays over and over like a loop in my head.”

Williams was treated for his injuries at MultiCare after the incident, and now worries about his ability to perform his job.

“I was a licensed barber. I can’t even stand up for long periods of time right now,” he noted.

Protest over Tacoma police officer driving through crowd culminates in property damage

The officer is on paid administrative leave per department policy, and has been since Jan. 23, immediately following the incident. He has been on the force for over 29 years. The case is being investigated by the Pierce County Force Investigation Team.

The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report.

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