Tacoma, WA — An investigation is underway this week after a shocking video surfaced over the weekend of a Tacoma police officer plowing through a crowd of people. The video, which shows at least one person being rolled over by both axles is causing controversy online as some defend the officer's actions while others call for his arrest.
According to police, they were responding to an incident of cars doing burn outs at the intersection of South 9th and Pacific Avenue around 6:20 p.m. on Saturday. When the officer arrived, people were blocking the intersection which police started to clear "for the safety of those gathered and people trying to use the street," the release said.
The man who filmed the video told the News Tribune that he saw five to six cars spinning in circles on South 9th Street between the intersections of Court A and Pacific Avenue before police arrived. He said a crowd of about three dozen people formed to watch the burn outs and traffic had stopped in all directions.
A fire truck originally came through and put a stop to the action but shortly after the crowd got back in the street.
As the video shows, when the officer arrives, the crowd surrounds the officer's SUV. The officer had his lights and sirens activated, yet people were still not moving out of the way. According to police, the crowd began banging on the windows and kicking the police car, causing the officer to fear for his safety.
Police claim the officer tried to back up, but was completely surrounded and unable to do so.
“During the operation, a responding Tacoma police vehicle was surrounded by the crowd. People hit the body of the police vehicle and its windows as the officer was stopped in the street. The officer, fearing for his safety, tried to back up, but was unable to do so because of the crowd. The officer had his lights and sirens activated.
“While trying to extricate himself from an unsafe position, the officer drove forward striking one individual and may have impacted others. The officer stopped at a point of safety and called for medical aid. One person was transported to an area hospital. That person’s condition is, at this time, unknown.
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“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.”
Though the officer was not identified in the police statement, we are told that he is a 29-year veteran of the department and is 58 years old.
"The patrol officer involved in this incident is a 58-year-old male who has been a member of the Tacoma Police Department for 29.5 years," the statement said. "The officer was placed on paid administrative leave per department policy on the evening of January 23 immediately following the incident."
While many people are defending the officer's actions, others are calling for his arrest. Tacoma police spokeswoman Wendy Haddow said the officer got on the loud speaker and attempted to disperse the crowd, however, that was not heard in the 48 second video.
“He was afraid they would break his glass,” she said.
Though the department released photos of shoe imprints on the vehicle, none of the windows were reportedly broken which makes the officer's high rate of acceleration into the crowd questionable.
The officer could have simply moved forward at a slower rate to allow the crowd to get out of the way instead of stomping the gas and immediately plowing through them. However, as the video shows, this did not happen and at least two people were hospitalized as a result.
What do you think the officer in the video below could have done? Let us know in the comments below. Were his actions justified or should he be held accountable?