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When a Driver Hits a Protester, Truth and Rumors Collide

A Breonna Taylor protest in Denver ended with a driver hitting a protester.EXPAND
A Breonna Taylor protest in Denver ended with a driver hitting a protester.

The Denver Police Department is investigating an incident involving a driver whose Volvo SUV hit a protester in front of the Capitol on September 23.

While the driver was initially detained, "currently, he has not been cited and investigators continue to look into the incident," says Christine Downs, a DPD spokesperson. Since he hasn't been cited, the department is not identifying him, she adds.

The incident took place just after 9 p.m., more than three hours into a protest sparked by the lack of significant grand jury indictments for the police officers involved in the March killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky. By then, the crowd had dwindled but the speeches were continuing; about 200 people were gathered on the lawn of the Capitol and along Lincoln Street.

Westword reviewed six videos of the incident, and also spoke with multiple eyewitnesses.

One says that the driver of the Volvo turned left from 14th Avenue onto Lincoln, avoiding protesters who'd set themselves up at the intersection to prevent cars from driving in front of the Capitol. The Volvo then pulled to the right side of Lincoln as protesters gathered around the vehicle.

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In various videos, protesters can be seen at the front and sides of the car, yelling at the driver to back up. Lincoln is a one-way street, but it's not uncommon to see cars turning and driving the wrong way when instructed by protesters blocking the way forward.

"All you got to do is back up or be a fucking Nazi. Be a Nazi or back up, motherfucker," one person shouts.

The driver of the Volvo rolls down his windows after a protester knocks on his passenger side window.

"Don't touch my fucking car," the driver says. The guy who at the window responds, "I don't care about your shitty BMW."

The person filming the encounter then asks, "What's going on?"

The driver responds, "You fucking tell me," then appears to say,  "I got to go."

"No one's moving," the man filming the scene responds.

Another person tells the driver, "You can go in reverse." The driver answers, "No, I can't go in reverse."

The driver then accelerates slightly before stopping after the car had moved forward about a foot. A protester standing to the right side of the car kicks it three times, while another knocks his bike into it.

"Hey, back up before you get pepper-sprayed," shouts a protester.

Someone else yells, "Hey, do you like bear mace? I've got some bear mace for you, dude."

The driver honks. "You're about to get sprayed, dude," a protester yells.

That protester who'd kicked the car three times now kicks the right side of the vehicle, leading the driver to look back toward the rear passenger side of his car. The car then accelerates slightly, and pauses.

A protester with an object that appears to be a hammer smashes the driver's side of the windshield. The driver hits the gas and plows ahead, as the object comes down a second time. A protester who had been positioned in front of the vehicle is struck, and knocked over onto the sidewalk.

That individual has not yet reached out to authorities. "There were no reports of any injuries," says Downs.

"It was just a very frightening moment where obviously this guy did this intentionally and he knew the consequences of his actions," says Shelsea Ochoa, who had arrived at the protest right when when the car turned onto Lincoln.

After hitting the protester, the vehicle crushed into a blue bike and moved on — but nearby police stopped the car, detained the driver, then let him go without issuing a citation.

Denver Police Department officers did make three arrests that night: two for apparent possession of prohibited large capacity firearm magazines, one for street obstruction.

This was the third time in as many months that a car has driven into a crowd during a Denver protest. Drivers in the two previous incidents were charged with crimes. On July 25 in Aurora, a jeep drove through protesters who had gathered on Interstate 225. Hours before the September 23 protest at the Capito, 18th Judicial District DA George Brauchler announced that the Jeep driver would not be charged.

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