A woman was killed and three others were injured when an SUV struck a parked car and tossed it into demonstrators during a protest in the Minneapolis neighborhood where a Black man was fatally shot earlier this month during an arrest attempt, police and witnesses said Monday.
The suspect was pulled from his vehicle by protesters after the 11:39 p.m. Sunday crash in Uptown, was taken into police custody and was being treated for injuries at a hospital, police said on Twitter. Police did not say how the man was hurt or give the extent of his injuries.
A witness said the man driving an SUV was traveling at a high rate of speed and appeared to accelerate as he got closer to demonstrators who had blocked off a street. The driver struck a car parked across one of the traffic lanes, and that car then hit people.
“There was one line of barriers and then a second barrier, and he sped up. He sped up. He went even faster as he approached us. You could hear it ... start going even faster as he got close to us,” D.J. Hooker said.
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Witnesses said the SUV hit the car hard enough to send it flying.
“The car went through the air and it hit a young woman,” Hooker told Minnesota Public Radio.
Another witness, Brett Williams, said the woman struck by the car that had been hit was thrown into a stop light.
Police said the driver's motive was not immediately known. A statement from police said a preliminary investigation indicated that the use of drugs or alcohol by the driver may be a contributing factor in the crash.
Police said besides the woman who died, three other protesters had been injured. The extent of their injuries was not released.
Other injuries and deaths have been reported involving vehicles at protests across the U.S. as protesters have increasingly taken to streets to press their grievances. In Minneapolis, marching onto the area’s freeways has become a common tactic in recent years. During one incident last year, a semitrailer rolled into a crowd marching on a closed Minneapolis freeway over the death of George Floyd. No one was seriously injured.
In response to such protests, Republican politicians in several states, including Oklahoma, Florida and Iowa, have sought legal immunity for drivers who hit protesters.
There had been ongoing protests in Uptown, about 2 1/2 miles (4 kilometers) south of the city’s downtown, since the June 3 shooting of Winston Boogie Smith Jr., a 32-year-old father of three, by members of a federal U.S. Marshals Service task force. The Uptown area includes a mix of trendy restaurants, shops and theaters popular with the city’s younger professionals, many living in apartments and condominiums in the area.
Authorities have said Smith, who was wanted on a weapons violation, fired a gun before deputies fatally shot him in Minneapolis, a city on edge since Floyd’s death more than a year ago under an officer’s knee and the more recent fatal police shooting of Daunte Wright in a nearby suburb.
Members of the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force were trying to arrest Smith on a warrant for allegedly being a felon in possession of a gun, authorities said. The Marshals Service said in a statement that Smith, who was in a parked vehicle, didn’t comply with law enforcement and “produced a handgun resulting in task force members firing upon the subject.”
Smith died at the scene. State investigators said Smith’s passenger, a 27-year-old woman, was treated for injuries from glass debris. The woman, however, said she never saw a gun on Smith or in the vehicle, her attorneys said last week — contradicting investigators’ claims about Smith's actions.
There has been tension between police and residents since the deaths of Floyd, a Black man who died last year after he was pinned to the ground by Minneapolis officers, and Wright, a Black motorist who was fatally shot in April by an officer in the nearby suburb of Brooklyn Center.