A police officer in Washington state has been temporarily placed on leave after his patrol vehicle plowed through a crowd of pedestrians late Saturday, The Tacoma News-Tribune reports.
In footage provided to the newspaper by an eyewitness, the patrol vehicle can be seen approaching a group of pedestrians that had reportedly gathered at a downtown Tacoma intersection to watch a street race.
As the vehicle moved closer into the intersection, more people could be seen walking toward the front of it. The vehicle could then be seen backing away before accelerating forward into the crowd, apparently running some people over.
According to the local paper, one person was sent to the hospital after the incident.
“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 Tacoma Police Department told the paper.
“During the operation, a responding Tacoma police vehicle was surrounded by the crowd,” the department continued. The agency claimed that “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,” the office said, adding: “While trying to extricate himself from an unsafe position, the officer drove forward striking one individual and may have impacted others.”
The department said it has turned the investigation into the incident over to county officials.
In a statement to the paper, interim Police Chief Mike Ake said he was concerned that the department “is experiencing another use of deadly force incident.”
“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,” he added.
The department faced scrutiny amid weeks of protests against police brutality following the death of Manuel Ellis last March.
Ellis, a Black man, died at the age of 33 in Tacoma. The Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled his death a homicide after finding he died from respiratory arrest caused by physical restraint after local police restrained him on the ground in handcuffs.
–Updated at 9:12 a.m.