Tacoma, WA – A veteran Tacoma police officer was placed on administrative leave after he drove his patrol vehicle into a mob of rioters who attacked his car and began pounding on the windows on Saturday night.
Police said in a press release that the 58-year-old officer has served the Tacoma Police Department (TPD) for over 29 years, FOX News reported.
TPD spokeswoman Wendy Haddow told the News Tribune the veteran officer believed the violent mob was going to smash out the windows of his patrol SUV, CNN reported.
The incident began at approximately 6:19 p.m. on Jan. 23, when police began receiving multiple 911 calls that a group of approximately 100 people were blocking the Pacific Avenue and South 9th intersection, TPD said in a press release on Sunday night.
Cell phone footage showed a large crowd standing in the intersection watching vehicles spinning doughnuts and doing burnouts in the intersection.
One video appeared to show a bystander being hit by one of the spinning cars.
— Rahsaan〽️ (@marcelhoopla) January 24, 2021
When officers arrived at the scene, the crowd swarmed a TPD SUV, video footage showed.
“People hit the body of the police vehicle and its windows as the officer was stopped in the street,” TPD said in a press release. “The officer, fearing for his safety, tried to back up, but was unable to do so because of the crowd.”
The officer activated his patrol lights and siren, but the mob refused to back down, the video showed.
“While trying to extricate himself from an unsafe position, the officer drove forward striking one individual and may have impacted others,” the TPD said.
Cell phone footage showed the trapped officer as he accelerated through the violent crowd.
The video showed the officer driving over the top of one of the rioters during his escape, CNN reported.
9th and Pacific Ave in Tacoma pic.twitter.com/C76iq2Eimw
— Jason Gauthier (@jasonjgauthier) January 24, 2021
Tonight Tacoma Police squad car, ran over a group of car spectators,downtown Tacoma on Pacific ave around 6:30 p.m.
Here’s a video from my personal snapchat. pic.twitter.com/jle0fkzrJM
— Libertad Sam (@libertadsam03) January 24, 2021
Once he was free of the mob, he pulled over and called for medical aid for any injured rioters, the TPD said.
At least one person was hit by the patrol vehicle, and two were transported to the hospital, KIRO reported.
They did not suffer life-threatening injuries, and one person had been released from the hospital as of Sunday night, according to KIRO.
“Tacoma Police Department has contacted the pierce County Force Investigation Team (PCFIT) and turned the investigation over to them to conduct an independent investigation of this incident,” the TPD said in the press release.
TPD Interim Chief Mike Ake said in the press release that he was “concerned” about the department’s latest “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,” Chief Ake said.
Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards demanded that Chief Ake and the Tacoma city manager make sure that everyone involved in the incident is held accountable, CNN reported.
“For those who woke up this morning feeling outrage, frustration, grief, heartbreak, or confusion, I understand and honor your feelings,” Woodards said in a statement, according to NBC News. “I, too, am deeply saddened by what we saw last night.”
“While we await more information, I want the community to know that I am deeply concerned and praying for everyone who was impacted by last night’s events,” the mayor continued, according to CNN. “I continue to be proud of Tacoma’s long-standing reputation as a place of strong, non-violent advocacy and activism.”
Rioters converged on the area on Sunday night and proceeded to smash out the windows of various businesses, KIRO reported.
Video footage showed members of the crowd dressed in black and wearing helmets and gas masks. Some were carrying umbrellas.
Tacoma, Wa: Antifa has vandalized at least 10 businesses as well as parked vehicles pic.twitter.com/TSkBCpYEH8
— James Klüg (@realJamesKlug) January 25, 2021
A large group of #antifa have gathered in Tacoma, Wash. for a planned riot in response to a police vehicle that hit a mob of people surrounding it last night. Antifa have shut down the road with blockades. #AntifaRiots pic.twitter.com/q6Uz4YPOwf
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) January 25, 2021
They spray-painted vulgarities on buildings and ignited fires in the streets.
The total number of businesses vandalized during the rioting was still unknown on Sunday night, KIRO reported.
— Shane B. Murphy (@shanermurph) January 25, 2021
— Brendan Gutenschwager (@BGOnTheScene) January 25, 2021
The mob of approximately 50 people got into a brief standoff with police in front of the Pierce County Courthouse at one point in the night, according to KIRO.
Another video showed the group chanting “free them all” outside the Tacoma jail.
Outside jail calls to “Let them go!” Lots of fence shaking and drumming. One person in the jail with hand on window. pic.twitter.com/7xtokqm4hg
— Joshua Bessex (@Bessex_Joshua) January 25, 2021
South Sound 911 Records employees had to be evacuated from their building after the rioters smashed out the facility’s windows, Haddow told CNN.
She said that two people were arrested prior to Sunday night’s riot, but no one was arrested during the violent uprising itself.