Close to two months after a driver struck a protester on Broadway near Civic Center Park, the Denver District Attorney's Office has charged 37-year-old Jennifer Watson with third-degree assault for knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury to a protester, as well as reckless driving.
The incident occurred around 7 p.m. on the evening of May 28, the first day of the George Floyd protests in Denver, as a black SUV turned on to Broadway from Colfax. A man identified as Max Bailey by 9News jumped on the hood of the car; when the car started accelerating, Bailey jumped off to the side, but the car then veered toward him and struck him. Bailey walked away with bumps and bruises, but no major injuries.
The incident was captured on camera and posted to Twitter, where the video quickly went viral. "This gut-wrenching video is eerily reminiscent of James Alex Fields, the man who murdered Heather Heyer in Charlottesville in 2017," Senator Julie Gonzales wrote on Twitter.
But Ryan Brackley, a former prosecutor with Denver DA Beth McCann's office who now represents Watson, paints a very different picture of what happened. "What the viral video and the social media posting about the incident don't show is what was going on inside Jennifer Watson's car at that moment, between the man on the hood of her car, a person hanging off the side of her car, the smashed windshield, the people continuing to chase after her. I'm not sure anyone would've known what to do or done anything differently in that situation," Brackley tells Westword, saying that any additional comments would have to come from a statement he posted online.
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In that statement, Brackley says that "it was not reported on social media that [Watson] was the first person to call 911 following the incident or that the investigation by the Denver Police Department started after she again initiated contact with the police the following day, again identifying herself as the driver, and before any report was filed against her."
Concludes Brackley: "The decision to charge Jennifer Watson is unfortunate but we remain confident that she will be fully exonerated. Decisions to charge or not charge should be made based on facts, and what is right and just. Charging my client, particularly after a lengthy period of hesitation and pressure on the District Attorney to charge is simply not the answer to the issues the Denver community is struggling with right now."
Although the summons for Watson notes August 19 as the first court date, a search of the Denver County Court docket shows no scheduled dates for her.
Another car-ramming incident took place on the night of May 30 during more George Floyd protests. The driver allegedly involved in that incident, which led to injuries of multiple police officers and a civilian, was promptly detained.