Driver accused of hitting 2 protesters pleads not guilty

SEATTLE (AP) — A man accused of driving a car on to a closed Seattle freeway this month and hitting two protesters, killing one and seriously injuring the other, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday.

Dawit Kelete, 27, entered not guilty pleas to charges of vehicular homicide, vehicular assault and reckless driving in the July 4 collision that killed 24-year-old Summer Taylor, KING-TV reported. The other person who was hit, Diaz Love, of Portland, Oregon, is still hospitalized.

Kelete has been jailed since his arrest and the judge maintained bond at $1.2 million after his attorney entered the plea on behalf of Kelete, who did not speak during the proceeding.

Before the hearing, supporters of Taylor and Love gathered near the King County Courthouse, calling for justice in the case.

Kelete early July 4 drove a Jaguar around vehicles parked on Interstate 5 to protect Black Lives Matter protesters demonstrating against racial inequality and police violence, police have said. The car hit Taylor and Love and then left the scene, authorities have said.

Taylor, a veterinary clinic worker, died that night. Love, 32, was initially hospitalized in serious condition with leg and arm fractures and internal injuries, prosecutors said.

Kelete is Black and his lawyers have said that the event was an accident and not an intentional political act or statement.

“No words can express or make up for the suffering that Diaz Love, Summer Taylor’s family, and their loved ones and friends are enduring at this moment,” Kelete’s family said in a written statement released through the attorneys. “We recognize the pain is profound, raw and unbearable.”

Seattle has been the site of prolonged unrest following the May police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which sparked nationwide protests.